We’re almost there! We can feel it! There have been significant signs of warmer weather and longer days (despite yesterday’s ‘snow event’). Our kids have even played outside — once? twice? — without all the layers they’ve come to know this winter.
When the sun starts pouring into my windows and new veggies begin making a slow appearance in the grocery store or farmers market, I feel inspired to get rid of the winter staples we have exhausted by bringing fresh recipes into our week.
One of our recent favorites is an Asian inspired noodle dish that pleases palates of all sizes. It’s still a warming dish for those early spring days that will keep the kiddos cozy overnight, but it’s versatile enough that you can highlight it with several early spring veggies. I recently discovered the incredible H Mart grocery store in Catonsville where I combed the aisles in awe of all the variations for noodles, green veggies, traditional broths, sauces, fresh herbs and spices. I need a full tutorial from an expert as I only scratched the surface of what this place has to offer.
The Scoop on Noodles: Soba or Udon
I tend to choose Soba noodles over Udon noodles only because they are considered the healthier option. Soba is Japanese for Buckwheat – be sure to look for 100% buckwheat. Buckwheat is gluten-free and can be easier on the gut. Soba noodles have good protein and essential amino acids like lysine; they are also full of vitamins and antioxidants.
Udon noodles are still easily digestible, have a decent amount of protein (especially for a noodle!) and can be considered a kid-healthy food,too. Udon is thicker and lighter in color, so if you have a mini color-sensitive food investigator, the udon may be a more popular option.
Japanese noodles are so versatile and can be prepared in under 5 minutes. You can serve them simply with just broth, a dash of tamari and rice vinegar or with your favorite steamed or sautéed vegetables. You can also use a lean protein like chicken or plain cubed tofu to round out the taste.
Seasonal March (Early Spring) Vegetables
The best part about noodle bowls is you can toss with whatever vegetables are in season. For this early spring dish, here’s what’s fresh in the mid-Atlantic region:
- Mushrooms: usually available year round, but wild mushrooms start popping up in early spring.
- Cauliflower: a cool weather cruciferous vegetable that has superior storage capability. This is a great veggie option for coming out of winter months.
- Spring Onions: often the first signs of seasonal spring produce. As soon as you see these in the grocery store: buy them! use them!
- Bok Choy: part of the cabbage family, it’s mild in flavor, steams quickly and has a tender texture. You can generally find bok choy in most grocery stores, especially starting in early spring.
Seasonal Spring Veggie Noodle Bowl
Now it’s time to make the bowl! The best part about noodle bowls are there are rarely “wrong” ways to make them. You can usually make whatever spices and sauces you have on hand work. Here’s how we made this Asian-inspired spring noodle bowl.
- Soba or Udon Noodles
- Spring Onions
- Bok Choy
- Safflower or Coconut Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Rice Vinegar
- Veggie or Chicken Broth
- Thai Basil
Veggie Saute: Clean and rough chop your veggies and herbs. I use safflower oil while sauteeing mushrooms and onions on a medium to high heat with chopped fresh ginger. However, coconut oil would work here but it could lend a more nutty flavor to the dish. While I lower the heat (after the mushrooms are tender and the onions are translucent and browning), I drizzle in toasted sesame oil and a healthy dose of tamari and rice vinegar. I let that simmer for a few minutes then add about 1- 2 cups of broth depending on how soupy I want the dish to be. As soon as the broth is warm, throw in the chopped and well-rinsed bok choy. Toss gently and turn heat off after a minute or two to retain crunchy bok choy flavor.
Noodle Bowl Assembly: I try to cook the noodles somewhere between the sauté period and the broth going in. They are so quick to cook that it doesn’t really matter when you get to it – – the longest part is waiting for the water to boil! The noodles take about 4 minutes, then drain and rinse well with cool water. Once rinsed, I prefer adding a bit of broth to individual bowls, then add noodles and gently toss with your veggie sauté.
Keep the Toddler Happy: For the little ones, I deconstruct this recipe slightly by adding simple broth (oil, broth, tamari, rice vinegar) to plain noodles and offering veggies on the side.
I hope you give this a try — there are so many options.
Enjoy! Happy (almost) Spring!