Sunday, May 01, 2011
About a year ago the food writer Mark Bittman published an intriguing-sounding article about yakisoba, a quick meal involving noodles and vegetables. Japanese food has always intimidated me - I am not a big fan of sushi, and I would never make tempura at home. (Why mess with a deep fryer if you don't have to?) But this sounded simple and quick, a good dinner for one. As is my wont, I printed his article and added it to my overstuffed notebook of recipes. There it sat patiently waiting for months while I kept forgetting to look for the noodles and mirin mentioned in the recipe.
What really attracted me to yakisoba was Bittman's encouragement to personalize it. I must confess that I like to play with my food, and any recipe that tells you to improvise and experiment is a recipe that I will probably try. You can basically add any vegetable and/or protein that you want to the noodles - I used onion, cabbage and mushrooms. I think thinly sliced celery would also work. You cook the add ins first, then take them out of the pan and put in the noodles. I finally found fresh yakisoba in the refrigerated section of my local Albertson's. Any grocery with a decent selection of ethnic/Asian foods should have them. You do have to add some water to the pan as you cook the noodles to help separate them. Then add your veg back in, add the sauce (which you have mixed prior to beginning the cooking process) and voila!
Ah, the sauce. What to put in it? My noodles came with a packet of powdered flavoring, and I might try this next time just to see how it tastes. But Bittman's description of the sauce is really what inspired me to try the recipe. He says that yakisoba recipes "use everything from applesauce to mustard, neither of which works for me" and recommends a combination of ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire, mirin and Tabasco. To me this tasted kind of like Spaghetti-O's, but I think I used too much ketchup. I'll use less next time. I like mustard much more than ketchup, so I may go hunting for a mustard-based sauce to see if this works better.
If you think this combination sounds high in sodium, you would be correct. I found a low-sodium recipe for yakisoba here; you may want to give this a try if sodium is an issue for you. All told, this was a worthy experiment and one I will make again. Yakisoba is the sort of thing I can tweak and polish for years, and that's just the kind of recipe I like.