Monday, 14 December 2015

2-minute Noodle Bowls, and a Christmas present from the Japan Food Hall

So, as you can tell, school life did not turn out to be quite that free and easy after all. I haven’t had a breather till this week- my Reading Week before the exams. I’m pretty sure I should be writing about Apple’s competitive strategies instead of noodles; and calculating profit margins instead of teaspoons of soy sauce. In my defense, I really needed a bit of healthy distraction– and a bowl of noodles.

There was a time in my life when literally the only thing I could do in the kitchen was boil water. (I even burnt rice with a rice cooker) Back then, packets of emergency ramen were my late-night guilty pleasure. Cue stereotype of Asian student feverishly studying while slurping cup noodles and then falling asleep in a pile of books and empty plastic tubs. While that is still sort of true, I like to think I’ve progressed beyond instant seasoning packets and takeaway boxes (and falling asleep with dirty bowls).

I make my noodle bowls from scratch, and they take me no more than 2 minutes of active time in the kitchen. They’re my version of fast food–just healthier and tastier. (These quick and easy bowls are also perfect to rustle up when you come home shit-faced from a night out.) Feel free to mix up the ingredients with whatever bits and bobs you’ve got lying in you fridge.

With spring onions and black pepper

The egg is optional if you are in a rush. The only active ‘real’ work involved here is putting the kettle on, pouring the water over noodles, and stirring in miso, probably a minute in total. But if you really do need some form of a recipe…

Serves 1
1 bundle of glass vermicelli noodles
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp good red miso
soy sauce, to taste
½ tsp sesame oil
1 stalk spring onions
generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Bonus topping (make extra for future noodle bowls)
large free range eggs

1. Place glass noodles in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over. Cover and set aside for 10 to
12 minutes, or until the noodles are pliable and translucent.
2. If you’re too lazy, you can just wander off back to your books in the meanwhile. If you’re doing the egg bonus: Place eggs in a small saucepan with enough cold water to cover by about a centimeter. Bring to a boil over high heat and once boiling furiously, turn the heat off and let sit, covered for 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water a few times, tapping the eggs lightly to crack and then letting sit in the cold water until your noodles are ready. Extra eggs can be kept in the fridge once drained.
3. In a separate little bowl, add the red miso and steal a few tablespoons of hot water from your noodle bowl. Stir the miso and water together till you get a smooth runny paste.
4. Your noodles should be done now. Stir the miso solution and sesame oil into the noodles and soaking water. Adjust seasoning to taste with soy sauce, if necessary. Peel and halve the egg and top the noodle bowl with it. Snip spring onions over with kitchen scissors and finish with generous grinds of pepper.


with sprout top ribbons

This is slightly more advanced, in that you actually need a pot, and maybe a chopping board. Basically, boil udon noodles until just cooked; or thin egg noodles if you are really impatient. Throw in some greens* at the same time. Drain, then toss in the simplest concoction of soy sauce and fragrant spicy oils.

Serves 1
1 bundle of dried udon noodles
2 handfuls of sliced greens

for the dressing
1 tbsp good light soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chilli oil (or 1 tsp chilli flakes and chuck in more sesame oil)
2 tsp Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)

* Sprout tops, spring greens, or cabbage are great here, but if you are really too busy (or lazy) to chop, get a bag of chopped kale. 

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling furiously, drop in the udon noodles. Cook until tender but still springy, according to the package instructions.
2. My thick udon noodles took about 8 to 10 minutes, so I added the greens a bit later, after I’ve given the noodles a 5 minutes head start. Egg noodles will only take seconds, so for those, add the greens first.
3.  Meanwhile, stir together the ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl.
4. Remove the pot from the stove, drain well and then slip straight into the bowl. Toss well with chopsticks so that each strand is coated with the dressing.
p.s. you can also top this with an egg if you were smart and made extra eggs like I suggested.


That’s it, really as easy as it sounds. What I find really important here though, is to get a proper, naturally fermented soy sauce; and for the first recipe, a good tub of miso*. I use Kikkoman most often, but there are lots of good brands available nowadays. It’s not an issue finding great Asian produce in London nowadays– if you live in East London and wander down Mare Street, or you can do it the 21st century way and go online.

I’ve been collaborating with two really great Japanese supermarkets here the past months (read more below), so yes that is another reason the past months have been so hectic. The kind folks at the Japan Food Hall have offered my readers free delivery on all their orders before the year end- so there you go, Christmas present from me: mummyicancookFREEDELIVERY_311215 The Sanuki handcut udon on their site is really worth checking out– seriously beautiful chewy texture and flavour. I use their Hikari red miso too, if anyone’s curious; and only have good words to say about their service.

I guess that sort of rounds up what I've been up to/ eating the past months, and yes it is time to return to the books. Have a very happy gravy-filled Christmas everybody, and I'll report back in the new year with recipes to tackle our post-holiday bellies.


*Miso is one my absolute kitchen staples (I have 4 different tubs at home at any time). For the miso-uninitiated, I wrote a miso primer and a collection of miso recipes for the Great British Chefs and the Japan Centre. There's much much more you can do with miso besides soup:

Oh one last thing, I have something exciting and possibly noodley coming up in the new year. Get on my mailing list for first peeks when it's ready.