This Japanese-inspired noodle dish is perfect to highlight asparagus at its peak in early spring. Wakame, a deep-green sea vegetable, adds a briny counterpoint to the slippery noodles and crisp asparagus spears. Look for it at natural foods markets and Asian stores; they’re well worth the hunt.
Soba Noodles with Asparagus, Shiitake and Wakame
2 Tbs. dried wakame or mixed sea vegetables
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 lb. (250 g) soba noodles
2 Tbs. canola oil
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
3/4 lb. (375 g) asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed and spears cut into 2-inch (5-cm) lengths
1 cup (3 oz./90 g) shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced
In a bowl, combine the wakame with 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) cold water. Set aside to reconstitute for 15 minutes.
Drain the wakame, squeeze out the excess water and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil until the sugar dissolves; set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop them from overcooking; set aside.
In a wok or large nonstick frying pan, warm the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry until aromatic, 20 seconds. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add 2 Tbs. water, cover and cook until the asparagus is tender-crisp and bright green, about 2 minutes, depending on their thickness.
Uncover, remove the pan from heat and add the noodles and soy sauce mixture, tossing to coat. Divide the noodle-vegetable mixture among shallow bowls. Top the noodles with the wakame and serve warm or chilled. Serves 4.
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Vegetarian, by Ivy Manning