This healthy, meatless, easy-to-put-together dish uses my new favourite time-saving ingredient – one of the few that is allowed past the threshold of my kitchen – 100% buckwheat, dried noodles. I have been allured by the health benefits of buckwheat for a while now (read more about that here), but finding pasta or noodles that contain more that just a sprinkle of it is a challenge.
My first port of call in this quest was an Asian supermarket. Surely Japanese soba noodles would be suitable? But no, no matter how many shops I scoured, all that was ever on offer was noodles containing mostly white wheat flour with an unspecified (presumably small) amount of buckwheat. Not really what I had in mind.
So it was with glee that I discovered these noodles in a health food shop (also available here at Amazon). 100% buckwheat. Not even any added salt.
One word of warning, these noodles will stick to almost anything once they are out of liquid. You have to move them very quickly from the boiling water to your broth or sauce, but once you understand that, they are fab.
The first time I cooked them, I tried using the absorption method – where you cook them in just enough water to rehydrate them, retaining all the lovely, tasty starch. But that was not a success with this kind of noodle. They give off a truly huge amount of starch when cooked, so my recommendation is cook these noodles in the conventional way, using a large amount of water – probably what you were planning on doing anyway.
That being said, the cooking water is exceptionally good for adding flavour and thickening sauces, so bear that in mind if your meal needs that extra little something. For example, this broth could happily take some cooking water if you fancied it a little thicker.
I chose pak choy to go with my noodles today, and in doing so, happened upon a new way to cook them. Normally, to make sure the stem and the delicate greens are cooked at the same time, I separate them and cook them individually, but today I steamed them stem down, only poking the leaves under the lid towards the end. It worked great!
Although they are not the focus of this dish, it offers me the opportunity to tease you with a look at the wonderful pink oyster mushrooms I have been growing in my living room! There is a post coming soon on this unbridled joy…
While we’re on the subject of vegetables, I recently learnt how to fashion spring onions into a number of interesting garnishes via this Serious Eats tutorial – one is pictured on top of my noodles below. So if you fancy your own curly, feathery, oniony topping – you know where to go!
The Japanese-style, vegetarian noodle broth that forms the base of this dish is made with the traditional flavourings of dried shiitake mushrooms and miso paste, with a few of my own umami additions – sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. I really think that you have to make a bit of effort when putting together a vegetarian broth – deep, rich flavour is not as easy to come by as with meat.
I also made a little spicy oil drizzle with black and pink peppercorns, dried coriander and hot chilli flakes, just to liven things up a bit. It really boosted the flavour of the whole dish. You can vary the ingredients with whatever you have in your cupboard, but I wouldn’t recommend omitting it.
So there you have it. Healthy and whole grain, with lots of fresh, lightly cooked vegetables. A deeply savoury, flavourful broth with hints of garlic, mushroom and miso. And a spicy, perfumy drizzle. Great for Meatless Monday… Or any day of the week!
- 800g water
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 sun-dried tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons miso paste, more to taste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon dried hot chilli flakes, or similar
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds or ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons oil (I used a pretty non-traditional olive oil)
- 200g buckwheat noodles
- 150g pak choy, trimmed
- 150g oyster mushrooms, trimmed
- Boil the water, add the mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic and leave to steep for at least 30 minutes, as long as possible.
- When you are nearly ready to eat, heat the broth base in a medium saucepan, then add the miso paste - you never want this broth to boil (it will ruin the miso) keep it below a simmer. Add the soy sauce, then taste it, adding more soy or miso as you see fit. Keep it hot.
- Toast the spices in a hot dry pan, add the oil, cook for a minute or two. Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving bowl and leave to cool and steep while you prepare the rest of the meal.
- Bring a big pan of water to the boil, add salt, then add the noodles. Arrange the pak choy stems down in a steamer insert, sieve or colander - it's fine (great even!) if the leaves poke out the sides. Steam the pak choy over the noodles, covered, until the stems and noodles are both nearly done, then poke the leaves under the lid, add the oyster mushrooms and steam it all for a further couple of minutes.
- When they are done, use tongs to distribute the noodles and vegetables between the bowls, then pour over the broth, through a sieve to remove the aromatics. Serve immediately with a generous drizzle of spicy oil.