Asian noodle bowls can be light and filling comfort food

Noodle bowls and soups are traditional comfort foods in Asian cuisines. They are light and filling and can be creatively adapted for any diet and taste.

These recipes are excellent for those seeking to eat fewer carbohydrates, especially breads, pasta, sweets and starchy vegetables, and more fresh vegetables and proteins, for weight loss or a healthier diet.

Asian noodle bowls

Yield four bowls.

Start with a noodle or substitute, add a variety of fresh vegetables, a protein, savoury sauce and garnish and you have tasty comfort food.

Noodles:

  • 6-8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles, stir fry noodles, Chinese egg noodles, Konjac noodles (see note) or shredded zucchini to replace the noodles 200-250 mL

Proteins:

  • 1 lb. chicken breast, beef stir-fry strips or grilling steak, pork tenderloin, shrimp, salmon, or tofu or leftover roasted meats can be used 500 g
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. pepper 1 – 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 2 mL
  • 1/4 c. hoisin sauce 60 mL (optional)
  • 1/4 c. oyster sauce 60 mL (optional)
  • savoury sauce, see below

Raw fresh vegetables:

  • 8 c. variety of vegetables, whole, chopped, diced or shredded 1 L
  • alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, bean sprouts, beans, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, kohlrabi, mushrooms, napa cabbage, onions, radish, snow peas, zucchini, or cooked edamame

Greens:

  • lettuce, spinach or a variety of mixed greens

Fresh herbs:

  • a generous combination of cilantro, mint, Thai basil or traditional basil

Garnishes:

  • lime wedges, chopped peanuts, sesame seeds, thinly-sliced Thai bird chilis or peppers

Prepare the sesame or honey lime sauce or both and set aside.

Cook or soak noodles a few minutes less than package instructions. If noodles seem very sticky, rinse in cold water. Noodles can be tossed with a sauce, then set aside.

Cut chicken breasts, beef steak or pork tenderloin into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bake at 425 F (220 C) for 15 minutes.

Or combine the hoisin and oyster sauce and add any of the protein options and marinate for 10 to 30 minutes. The sesame sauce can also be used as a marinate. Drain and stir-fry in two batches in a skillet to gently brown.

While the noodles and meat are being prepared wash, chop, dice or shred vegetables, greens and herbs.

To serve divide the noodles between four bowls. Top with a variety of the greens and vegetables. Add the protein, herbs, garnishes and sauce of choice. Rather than adding the Sriracha sauce to the sauces, serve on the side.

Note: Konjac noodles are a no-carbohydrate noodle option. They are also gluten free, soy free, very high in fibre and vegan. Konjac, a herb from Asia, is also known as glucomannan. The plant has a starchy corm which is a tuber-like part of the stem that grows underground. The corm is used to make a rich source of soluble dietary fibre. The noodles do not require cooking; just open the package, rinse well and then use like a rice noodle. When the package is opened there is a slight smell, but a thorough rinse removes it.

Sesame sauce:

  • 1/4 c. sesame paste (or tahini) 60 mL
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce 45 mL dark or low sodium
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar 15 mL
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • warm water
  • sugar
  • Sriracha sauce

Whisk first five ingredients together until smooth in a food processor or shake up in a jar. Add water as needed to thin the sauce. Add sugar and Sriracha sauce to taste.

Make a double batch to put in the refrigerator or freezer for future use. The sauce can also be used to marinate the protein before cooking.

Honey lime sauce:

  • 1/4 c. warm water 60 mL
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. honey (or desired sweetener) 45 – 60 mL
  • 1/3 c. lime juice, freshly squeezed 75 mL
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce 45 mL
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 Thai bird chili, finely minced (optional) this is a small, very fiery, dried Thai chili
  • Sriracha sauce (optional)

Combine the warm water and honey in a small bowl and whisk until the honey has dissolved. Add in the remaining sauce ingredients and whisk until combined. Set aside.

For packed lunches put the noodles and protein in one container for reheating and the vegetables and sauce in a second container.

Store in the refrigerator for three to four days. Eat hot or cold. Adapted from pinchofyum.com

Vietnamese Beef Pho

Pho (fuh), is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. The broth is delicious and smells wonderful. Serves four.

  • 1 – 3-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper corn 15 mL
  • 6 c. beef broth 1.5 L
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar 10 mL
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce 15 mL
  • 1 lb. eye-of-round steak or other lean steak fat trimmed, frozen
  • 8 oz. uncooked rice stick noodles 250 g
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • bean sprouts
  • cilantro
  • Thai basil or regular basil
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno chili or other green chili (optional)
  • lime wedges

Cut unpeeled ginger, garlic and onion in half. Place cut side up on a cookie sheet and broil five minutes.

Toast star anise, cinnamon stick and pepper corns in a non-stick frying pan two to three minutes, swirling spices frequently to prevent scorching.

Bring stock, ginger, garlic, onion, star anise, cinnamon stick and pepper corns to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Cover and cook 20 to 25 minutes; the broth will be rich and flavourful. Remove from heat. Strain and discard all the solids.

Stir in brown sugar and fish sauce. Taste the stock and add more sugar or fish sauce, if desired.

While broth cooks, remove frozen beef from freezer and let sit at room temperature 15 minutes.

Thinly slice steak; the thinner the better. Set steak slices aside.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to boil over high heat. Remove from heat and add rice noodles; let stand five to 10 minutes, stir to prevent noodles from sticking together. When noodles are softened drain and set aside. Add a little broth and toss to prevent sticking.

To serve, bring broth to a simmer over medium-low heat. Divide the noodles and beef among four bowls and ladle in hot broth.

The hot broth will cook the thinly sliced beef, leaving it rare and juicy.

Top each bowl with desired amount of bean sprouts, onion slices, cilantro and basil. Serve with lime wedges and hot pepper slices.

I find the peppers overpower the delicious broth flavour while a squeeze of lime juice enhances the flavour.

For more well-cooked meat add beef slices to simmering broth just before serving for one to two minutes. Adapted from tasty.co.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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