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Noodles are comforting in more than one way. Sure, they provide sustenance, but what about the joy of swirling them around with a fork or chopsticks, or the way they pick up sauce and broth as you slurp? Whether I'm hungover, sick, or just plain tired, noodles are always my go-to dish.
That said, there are risks. Bland sauces and overcooked, mushy noodles seem more the norm than the exception, particularly with quick recipes like this one. We're going to make sure our noodles are cooked perfectly al dente (in the same pot as the other ingredients, no less!); then we'll pack 'em with flavor bombs like mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sriracha. It's the sort of combo that can be a harried weeknight cook's best friend.
I start off by cooking dried buckwheat soba noodles in a skillet with a few cups of chicken broth until they're about halfway done. Then, I toss in my other quick-cooking ingredients so that they finish just as the noodles hit al dente. Shrimp's a prime candidate: not only does it cook quickly, but it adds great flavor to the broth base.
Traditionally, soba is served with a sea broth made with kelp and shaved dried bonito. It can be quite time consuming to create a separate broth, but I found that by using a bit of dried wakame—the green Japanese seaweed you often see in miso soup—I could easily bring an oceany aroma to the broth, while also adding an edible green vegetable to the bowl. Two birds with one stone!
Finally, slender enoki mushrooms cook quickly and bulk up the dish to make it a filling dinner. The mushrooms can be found in most Asian supermarkets and are light and mild in flavor. I like using them in noodle dishes because their slender, noodle-like shape is great for picking up broth.
To season up the finished dish, I add just a dash of soy sauce for a salty umami boost, a splash of mirin for sweetness, and a drizzle of sesame oil for its rich, toasty aroma. If you want to call it a day, you can finish the dish right there and just serve it with some sriracha and limes at the table—a whole meal, and you didn't even have to pull out the knife!
But if you're willing to whip out that cutting board, some sliced scallions go nicely stirred into the noodles. One pot, fifteen minutes, minimal knife work, and dinner is served. Delicious dinner, to be specific.
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