Nifty noodles: My soba noodles and mushroom delight.
It is that time of the year again. The time when there is no time left, but oh so many things that still need to be taken care off. With yet another exciting academic year behind me and just a few exams right ahead of me, I have almost no time on my hands for cooking or writing. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to eat well. In fact, it is these countless days of crouching over books, of sitting in too tight places for too many hours and of sharing only a few gallons of air with what seems to be an army of mouth-breathers and loud-nose-snifflers, that I realise how important a good meal is. I feel every muscles of my body tensing and notice any ever so soft rumbling of my guts and I start craving light meals, that put less strain on my overstrained body. My soba noodles and mushroom delight is just the perfect meal for busy times like these. It is done in a spell (which is not more than 10 minutes) and will put a smile on your face. Soft pasta, sweet spring onions and nutty mushrooms are the perfect combination for a warm summer-lunch and the sauce is so aromatic, light and refreshing that you want to eat it straight from the pan. This is quick summer food, just how I like it.
When time is the scarcest resource, right after sleep or a social life, it seems none should or could be spent on cooking. As I’m writing this, I am sitting in an almost empty library munching on something ghastly that I just forced out of a vending machine. It’s too sweet and faintly tastes of almonds. But it will do. Here, working as I do. I am living testimony to the devastating effects of temptation on human beings. Freezed in a crouched position in some dimly lit room, mindlessly stuffing my face with sugar, carbs and fat pressed in form, coated with something that resembles a glaze, while stressing out about deadlines, papers and exams. This way of living really doesn’t feel healthy. But what can I do? Time doesn’t grow on trees.
For me mindfulness is a helpful tool in these busy time. It is not about making free time all the time. But to enjoy it fully when you happen to have it. On a moment by moment basis. Cooking, I believe, can be one way of making time. Of being, just for ten minutes, aware of what you are doing. Of taking time to relax. To do nothing but watch your sauce bubble and stir your noodles occasionally. My soba noodles and mushroom delight just seems to be perfect for this kind of moment. It is done in under ten minutes, is vegan* and is an extremely light dish. It is just perfect for a hot summers day where all you want is a quick light snack. Soft mushrooms and soft noodles, covered and infused with an aromatic sauce that requires almost no work. How much better can life become, even in these busy times?
My soba noodles and mushroom delight.
Mushrooms (I use buna-shimeji and bunapi-shimeji mushrooms here, but any will do)
Oyster sauce (*look for the vegan version to make this a proper vegan meal)
Light soy sauce
Sugar (*use brown sugar to make it vegan)
Five spice powder
I use two tequilla-shotglasses as the basic measurement unit here, which makes everything so much easier. 1 shot apparently equals 60 ml (at least that’s what Ikea says). Accordingly I use 120 ml of light soy-sauce and 360 ml of water. The one garlic clove and each one tablespoon of miso-paste and oyster-sauce should be used relative to this. You’ll make enough sauce for two people and will have plenty of left-over for the next day. But I think that’s never a bad thing.
The sauce: Slice one fresh clove of garlic thinly. Heat up one tablespoon of vegetable oil (Olive is not necessarily the best choice here) and a few drops of sesame oil in a pan. Add the sliced garlic and let it infuse the warm oil, the garlic should turn translucent, slightly colour even, but not brown. Pour in one part (2 shotglasses) of light soy-sauce and 3 parts of water (so 6 shotglasses). Depending on the saltiness of your soy-sauce you might need to add more water (likely another part). Add one tablespoon of white miso-paste and one tablespoon of oystersauce. Add two to three pinches of five spice powder and about half a teaspoon of sugar (you will probably need to add some more later). Let come to a boil and leave to bubble away for about 3 minutes. In the mean-time take one tablespoon of cornstarch and, in a separate bowl, mix with a bit of the sauce until it becomes a runny paste. Stir into the sauce and let thicken. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon easily. If too salty, add more water. See if the sauce needs a bit more five spice and add some more sugar, if you like.
Assembling everything: In the mean-time, cook the soba according to the instructions and after cooking, rinse under cold water. Clean the mushrooms if necessary (Rub off dirt using a slightly damp kitchen towel). Cut the stalks of a hand full of spring onions into match-stick sized chunks (Don’t discard of the green leaves, use them for a different dish). Heat up a tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauté the spring onion stems briefly. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add a few ladles of the sauce and let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Add your soba and eat straight away.