It’s Lunar New Year! Year of the Fire Monkey starts today!
Would you believe me if I told you the Chinese New Year actually means more to me than January 1st? I’m guessing this is because a) I am typically so “holiday-ed out” come December 31st that celebrating feels like a chore, and b) my “resolutions” start to make their way to the back of my mind by the end of January, so the early February Chinese New Year is a good reminder to recommit.
How’s that for a completely superficial explanation of why I love the Lunar New Year? Well I’ll give you one more: noodles.
Yes, noodles signify much more than just high carbohydrate content in the East. Long noodles represent longevity, among other things. My best friend in college was Chinese, and pretty much every day she’d make some comment about her waning youth and took desperate efforts to preserve it. She’s only 32 right now, mind you, meaning she was in her mid 20’s then. I’ll also say the first time I met her I insisted on seeing her license because I legitimately did not believe she was older than 17.
Nothing like excessive worry and noodles to keep a girl looking cherubic. If that’s really what it takes, I’ll retire looking like I’m 30.
This Lunar New Year is especially exciting, as it’s the year of the Fire Monkey. Above mentioned best friend was also deeply intuitive, and extremely knowledgable about both Eastern and Western astrology. No, not the Cosmo horoscope section type of astrology, but the real deal scientifically-based kind. Whether you take it seriously or not, I’ll just say this girl called it as she saw it and was never wrong.
One of the most basic things she shared with me is when a year falls in your zodiac sign, it will be an important year, for better or worse. I was born in the year of the Water Monkey, so I am preparing myself for whatever the coming months may bring. 2016 also has a very strong Virgo theme, which is my Western astrological sign. I have a feeling this is going to be a year to remember.
But that’s enough “woo-woo” (as my boss would say) for you today. I promise I live in the real world and am a reasonably practical human being. Isn’t everyone who has to make that disclaimer?
Here’s a Truffled Miso Noodle Bowl with Shiitakes, Greens, & Egg to keep us grounded in reality. There is a lot of flavor happening in these bowls, in the best way possible. You could almost consider it fusion cuisine, no? Long noodles are either Asian or Italian, eggs are universal. Shiitakes and miso, Asian. Dinosaur kale and parmesan, Italian. Truffles? Good. But mostly Italian/French.
My love for truffles runs deep. As in I fantasize about someday owning my own pig, who I will regularly take on truffle hunts. It started the summer I lived in Italy. Tagliatelle al tartufo was by far my favorite dish. I actually ate a lot of lackluster food in Italy I’m sorry to say, but those fettucine-like noodles tossed in a luxurious truffle sauce never failed me. In America, the rule is basically “the more parm, the better,” right? Well in Italy I was scolded by waiters for requesting a side of parmesan with my truffled pasta. But I’m back in the USA now, and I will be putting parmesan on my truffe-ly noodles. Along with miso, shiitakes, and greens.
I’d like to say these bowls were my brain child, but they weren’t, entirely. Back almost a year ago, my dad came through for a visit and we had dinner at The Wood Tavern. Now that’s a Bay Area restaurant that’s completely worth the price. One of the appetizers sounded so irresistible that I chose it for a meal. Light-as-air cauliflower and parmesan tortellini, floating in bowl of truffle-scented broth that wafted out from the kitchen and had me salivating before it even hit the table.
It was so good, I didn’t even order dessert, as I wanted my experience with that broth bowl to last me as long as possible. I thought about that meal for days… and apparently I still am thinking about it, a year later. Please tell me there is someone out there who doesn’t consider me nuts for reminiscing on a bowl of broth for months…
These noodle bowls pay homage to that exquisite appetizer, but have an Asian flair in honor of the Lunar New Year. I will say, for taking less than 30 minutes to prepare and being no more difficult than making spaghetti, this dish is worthy of a high restaurant price tag.
You’ll start with sliced shiitake mushrooms, which have the most unique flavor and should not be substituted with any other kind of mushroom. A bit of garlic, ginger, scallion, and sesame, chopped greens for color and texture, and a good amount of umami white miso paste. The noodles get boiled right in the same pot. Not only is this convenient, but as the noodles cook and release their starch, the broth thickens, becoming something between soup and sauce.
Lastly, you’ll want to top your bowl with an egg, cooked any way you like. My preference is always scrambled, but for photographic purposes I tried for a soft-boiled egg. As you can see that didn’t work out, but hard-boiled was just as good, if not as pretty! A fried or poached egg would also be wonderful. You’ll season the egg with truffle salt before adding it to the bowl. I know truffle salt is not something most people have on hand, nor is it budget-friendly, but most spice shops (and even Whole Foods) sell it in bulk, so you can literally buy just a teaspoon of it.
As a finishing touch you’ll sprinkle in some parmesan cheese, and just a few drops of truffle oil. It’s liquid gold, but priced about the same as my monthly electric bill. It is just so necessary for these bowls though, and a single bottle will last you until you’re old enough to actually start worrying about preserving your youth. So take my advice, make a little splurge for the New Year, treat yourself. These Truffled Noodle Bowls with Shiitakes, Greens, & Egg are so good, you won’t mind having to eat them in the dark.
Truffled Miso Noodle Bowls with Shiitakes, Greens, & Egg
Yields 2 bowls
Earthy mushrooms, hearty greens, and noodles cooked in a deep and complexly flavored broth. Finished with truffle oil, a bit of parmesan, and an egg, these bowls are a restaurant-quality meal made in under half an hour.
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 4oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups (2oz) dinosaur kale, chopped (or spinach)
- 1 scallion, chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
- Black pepper
- 4-4 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup (84g) white miso paste
- 4oz. long noodles*
- 1/4-1/2 tsp. truffle oil
- Truffle salt
- 1 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs, soft or hardboiled, poached, or fried
Heat the olive and sesame oils in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown and release some of their juices. Add the greens, scallion, garlic, and ginger, and continue to cook for a minute longer, until fragrant. Season with black pepper.
Pour 4 cups of water into the pot. Stir in the miso paste. It will dissolve fully as the soup cooks. Add the noodles, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat so that your soup is simmering. Meanwhile, if you are soft or hard boiling the eggs, now is a good time to do that. For poached or fried, wait until the soup is finished before cooking them.
Simmer the soup for 8-13 minutes, until the noodles are fully cooked through. The time will vary depending on the noodle you choose. Test it at the eight minute mark. If it looks as though they’ve absorbed a bit too much broth, add an additional 1/2 cup of water.
Once the noodles are done, ladle the soup into serving bowls. Drizzle with truffle oil, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Season the cooked eggs with a bit of truffle salt, lay one in each bowl, and enjoy immediately.
*Soba, udon, lo mein noodles, spaghetti, or linguine are all fine. I actually used DeLallo’s gluten-free brown rice spaghetti. Highly recommended!