Rush Hour

January brings some of the coldest weather to our homes and there's nothing like Old Man Winter to make us crave soup. But it's also a time of the year that asks us to try something new and maybe even a bit lighter than the feasts the last couple of months have brought. So this month, I'm sharing a recipe for noodle bowls that are packed with beef, mushrooms, spinach, onions and -- of course -- noodles!

This kind of recipe is great because it's truly a meal in a bowl. While the dish wouldn't be the same without the flavorful broth that is poured over each bowl of noodles, it doesn't really feel like a soup. One word of caution: this dish is absolutely packed with sodium if you aren't careful about ingredients. But that doesn't mean you should avoid it if you're watching your salt intake. Simply use low sodium versions of as many ingredients as you can find. Beef broth and soy sauce are the main culprits and there are low sodium versions of both readily available.

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at .

Vietnamese Noodle Bowls

  • 1 lb. finely cubed stew meat -- choose beef or lamb
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3 cans beef broth
  • 8-10 dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1/3 c. soy sauce
  • 1 T. black bean sauce
  • 1-3 tsp. Thai chili garlic paste
  • 1/3 pkg. soba noodles (from 8 oz. package)
  • 2 c. baby spinach -- chopped
  • 3 green onions -- sliced

Brown the meat in the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan or deep skillet. When the meat is well-browned, add the beef broth and mushrooms and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Add the soy sauce, black bean sauce and Thai chili garlic paste to the saucepan and stir to combine. Return the mixture to a simmer.

Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms into thin strips and return to the saucepan. Simmer the mixture for another 15 minutes before adding the soba noodles to the pan. Increase the temperature to medium-high and cook until the noodles are soft and the beef is tender.

Immediately before serving, add the spinach and green onions. Serve by spooning the noodles, broth and vegetables into large bowls and ladling broth over it all.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes