Noodle bowls of all types are having a moment in the spotlight. Although known by different names and varying styles and tastes, most noodle bowls have a few things in common: a rich flavorful broth; cooked noodles; and toppings of vegetables and various sauces. They are ideal for feeding a crowd as each serving can be adjusted to personal tastes and are quite filling. Host your next summer gathering featuring this robust and savory chicken version that is flavored with fresh ginger and chiles and dried mushrooms.
Norm’s Notes: Oodles o’ Noodles
Asian-style noodles come in just as many varieties as Italian-style pasta. However, Asian noodles are far superior to keeping their shape in hot liquid thanks to the addition of alkaline substances (such as baking soda) in the recipe. I recommend taking a trip to a local Asian market and browsing the variety of noodles available (It will be a lot, trust me). Don’t be intimidated by the stylish characters that adorn the fronts of the packaging. Usually, on the flip side, there are picture directions that show proper cooking techniques and times. Pick a few different styles and cook them up to see which you prefer.
Japanese-style Udon noodles are fluffly and toothy. I like to use them because they have a bit more body than the dried version making them very filling. Those unfamiliar with their texture may rate them as soggy and rubbery, so buyer beware.
Soba noodles are more hearty in texture and earthy in taste thanks to a buckwheat flour base. I like them because they tend to soak up the flavor of the soup better than any noodle. Also, they are great served cold and tossed with a light coating of soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh grated ginger and ground fresh chili paste.
Egg noodles are the user-friendly option. Most people are familiar with the texture (think Chinese Lo-mein) and they are the easiest to find in your local supermarket. You can buy them fresh or dried and in flat or round shapes. Where to find them in the supermarket: In fresh form, look in the produce section usually along side egg roll and wonton wrappers. In dry form, check the international isle where you may also find dried versions of Soba and Udon noodles.
Asian-Style Noodle Bowl
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2 bunches green onions
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 (6 to 7 inch) green cowhorn pepper, cut in half lengthwise [2 large jalapeno peppers may be substituted]
1 (5 inch) piece ginger, cut in half lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (3 lb.) whole chicken, cut in half lengthwise
2 cups dried sliced shiitake mushrooms [about 1 (1-oz.) package]
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
2 to 3 tsp. kosher salt
2 (8 to 10-oz.) packages dried Udon noodles, cooked according to package directions. [1 (34.90-oz.) package Tokusen Udon noodles, 2 (10-oz.) packages dried Soba noobles, or 1 (14.11-oz.) package mushroom egg noodles may be substituted.]
Reserved sliced green onions
Cooked shredded chicken
1 medium-size head Napa cabbage, shredded
6 carrots, cut into very thin strips or grated
2 red bell peppers, cut into very thin strips
2 cups radishes, cut into thin slices
1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 (6 to 7 inch) cowhorn pepper, thinly sliced [1 large jalapeño pepper may be substituted]
Ground fresh chili paste (such as Sambal Oelek)
1. Remove white parts from green onions. Slice green parts and reserve.
2. Saute green onion white parts, cowhorn pepper and next 2 ingredients in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
3. Add chicken cut-sides down, top with mushrooms and cook 5 minutes. [Leave chicken undisturbed to help develop flavor.] Add 16 cups cold water; increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour, 30 minutes.
4. Remove chicken and let stand 15 minutes. Remove and discard green onion whites, ginger, and cowhorn pepper. (Broth and shiitake mushrooms are all that remain in pot.)
5. Stir in soy sauce and next 2 ingredients. Season with salt to taste. (Start with 2 tsp. and add up to 3 tsp. salt) Cover and keep on low until ready to serve.
6. Remove skin and bones from chicken, shred meat with two forks and discard bones and skin. Place shredded chicken on a serving plate.
Divide noodles among bowls and have guests top with desired amounts of vegetables, chicken and sauces. Ladle broth over noodles and toppings until just visible and noodles begin to float (about 1 cup per bowl).