Weeknight Shorts: The Variety Bowl

Assembling a good noodle bowl can be a bit like grabbing a blank canvas and creating a masterpiece. They give you a chance to build a meal that's healthy, delicious, and beautiful to behold. Better take a picture, though, because they won't last long:

This time around, I'm sharing one of my favorite varieties. I'm particularly fond of it because, despite having a lot going on in that bowl, this dish can be on the tale in about a half an hour, provided you can multi-task a bit. If that sounds scary, let me reassure you that this one's been put together to make that easy, too. If you've got a metal tea ball, you can get the stock going and then focus on the two other cooking areas: eggs/noodles and pork/mushrooms. Each of these "stations" gives attention to one item and then the second item uses what you've got already in play to make things move quickly. Simmer the eggs and then use that hot liquid to soften the noodles. Brown the pork and then use the pan juices to cook and season the mushrooms. They almost make themselves!

Now, as is often the case, this dish is very versatile. I used vegetable stock, ginger, and miso paste to make a very flavorful liquid base for the noodle bowls. You could use any number of other broths and flavoring ingredients. Roasted chicken broth with garlic? That will work. Beef stock with a touch of cinnamon and ginger? Lovely. Seafood broth and thinly-sliced green onion? I'm already envisioning heaven in a bowl. Don't like eggs? Skip 'em. Love eggs? Add two per bowl and skip the pork? Want chicken instead? Go for it! You get the idea. You could shred carrots and add those. Thinly-sliced radish and hot peppers are lovely. Generally, you'd like items to be thinly-sliced and easy to lift with chopsticks and/or a spoon and small enough to have more than one thing in each bite. This dish is all about variety, after all.

Now, I also call for hot sauce because I simply adore it. That said, it's not required. Feel free to leave extra sauces off the table or offer soy, tamari, sweet and sour, garlic, or any other Asian-inspired sauce to those at your table. And, as is noted in the recipe, the amount of stock this recipe yields will leave you with leftovers. I love to grab a bowl with a lid and fill it with stuff I'd like to have covered in delicious broth. Often, that's a soft-boiled egg (peeled, of course), some spinach leaves, some shredded carrot, some sliced radish, maybe some leftover shredded chicken, some sesame seeds, and some sliced green onions. Then I put about 1-2 cups of the leftover stock in a resealable jar and warm that when lunchtime comes around. I pour the hot stock over the stuff in my bowl, replace the lid and let it sit for a few minutes. Then I take off the lid, add a little hot sauce and fried red onions, and dig in! Now do you see why I adore noodle bowls so much? Happy creating!

Spicy Noodle Bowls

  • 6 c. low/no sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 c. miso paste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bundle soba noodles
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 1 boneless pork loin chop
  • 1 T. Thai chili garlic sauce
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced into quarters
  • 2 generous handfuls fresh spinach
  • Fried onions or shallots, for garnish
  • Black sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Sriracha sauce or other Asian hot sauce, for garnish

Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add the ginger and the miso paste. I like to put the miso paste in a tea ball to allow it to diffuse into the broth without leaving residue that is sometimes associated with miso soup. You can also put the paste into a small strainer and shake it gently in the simmering stock to melt it into the mixture. Allow the stock to simmer slowly until it is time to serve the soup. (You will have leftover stock when making this recipe for two. I do this on purpose to allow the remaining stock to be used for lunches. You can grab what you'd like to see in a bowl, combine it in a resealable container, and bring along a small jar of stock to heat in the microwave and then pour over the other items. Fast, easy, and delicious!)

While the stock is simmering, make the eggs and noodles, and the pork and mushrooms by splitting your time. Begin by covering two eggs with enough cold water to cover them entirely in a saucepan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. As soon as the water begins to simmer, set a timer for 4 minutes. When 4 minutes have elapsed, carefully remove the eggs from the hot water and place them in ice water to cool. Break the soba noodles and place them in the hot water you used to cook the eggs. Cover the saucepan with a lid and allow the noodles to soften in the hot water until it's time to serve the soup.

Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil over medium heat in a skillet. Brown the pork chop on both sides, allowing it to cook for about 4 minutes per side. When the pork has been browned, add the Thai chili garlic sauce and flip the pork once or twice to make sure it is well-coated. Remove to a plate and keep warm. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the hot skillet and sauté until they are soft and lightly browned.

To assemble the noodle bowls, place the spinach in the bottom of two large soup bowls. Using tongs, add the cooked soba noodles. Slice the pork into thin strips and arrange on top of the noodles. Peel and carefully slice the eggs (they will be soft in the center) and arrange them in the bowls as well. Add the cooked mushrooms and garlic to the bowl. Finish the bowls by garnishing them with fried onions, sesame seeds, and the hot sauce of your choice. Serve the steaming bowls with both chopsticks and spoons for maximum enjoyment.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

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