I've had incredible success with every recipe I've tried from Takashi's Noodles, written by the celebrated Chicago chef Takashi Yagihashi. His instructions for soba, ramen, and udon have all been authentic, utterly delicious, and relatively easy to prepare at home.
But the same level of authenticity disappears in the back of the book, when he starts dishing out wacky recipes for Italian pasta that are blessedly free of tradition. After scoring some baby bok choy at the farmers' market, I took a risk and tried this recipe—it pairs the bok choy pork loin, Chinese eggplant, and a spicy miso sauce. Oh, and it's all tossed with spaghetti.
The spicy miso sauce is the star of this dish. It's whisked together in a matter of seconds, and perfectly coats everything in a robust, slightly spicy sauce. Al dente spaghetti is a great match for it. The eggplant helps bulk things out, and the lightly cooked baby bok choy adds some green and much needed crunch.
Yagihashi warned that the eggplant pieces would suck up all of the oil, and eggplants are notorious for their sponge-like qualities. That said, I didn't have any issues, and was able to cut down the amount of oil that he recommended. Add it back if you have any issues, but this should work.
- For the Spicy Miso Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons shiro miso (white miso)
- ½ teaspoon Japanese soy sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons mirin
- ½ tablespoons hoisin sauce
- ½ tablespoon water
- ½ teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon Chinese chili paste (tobanjan)
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- For the Stir Fry:
- 6 ounces spaghetti
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus 1 teaspoon (if needed)
- 1 Chinese eggplant, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices
- 6 ounces pork loin, cut into ¼-inch thick pieces, and then sliced into ¼-inch strips
- 1 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 baby bok choys, rinsed, and chopped
For the spicy miso sauce: Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the directions on the packaging. When done, drain in a colander. You should have more than enough time to stir fry the rest of the ingredients for the dish while the pasta cooks.
While the pasta cooks, pour the four tablespoons of oil into a large wok or large saute pan set over high heat. When smoking, add the eggplant and cook until caramelized, about 1 ½ minutes per side. Remove eggplant pieces with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl, leaving as much oil behind as possible.
If there is no oil left, add the additional teaspoon of oil. Add the pork, and then reduce heat to medium. Cook pieces until no longer pink, about one minute. Remove these with a slotted spoon, and transfer to the same bowl as the eggplant.
Again, if there is no oil left, add an additional teaspoon of oil. Reduce heat to low and add the garlic. Cook until lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped bok choy, stir well, and cook until it just begins to wilt, about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat, return pork and eggplant, and pour in the miso sauce. Stir well.
Add the drained pasta to the wok or pan. Stir well. Divide mixture between two plates. Serve with chili oil (optional).