While thumbing through my AARP magazine (keep your comments to yourself), I came across an article “It’s Not About the Meat,” in which Molly Katzen was highlighted and this got my attention because I knew she was the author of the infamous Moosewood Cookbook. Included in the story was a recipe for Kimchi Stew, making it a perfect fit for our Meatless Mondays.
Gratifyingly thin slippery noodles, firm tofu, ever-so-slightly crunchy cabbage, earthy mushrooms, and hot and sour kimchi make this a sensuous, even mysterious “texture-fest.” It stores and reheats well, adding an always-welcome convenience factor. (Therefore good for lunches in the following days.)
Commonly and inexpensively available in most Asian grocery stores are bean thread, aka “cellophane,” noodles. They are a great convenience for a weekday meal because they cook up quickly. You will find there are numerous types of kimchi. Some are hotter—also some are sweeter—than others; with flavor characteristics usually indicated on the label. Taste around to discover your preferred brand. Not surprisingly, I like the hot kind. Take heed when opening the jar because it is fermented (and still active) and it’s a lot like opening a bottle of beer or champagne, creating its own little celebration. In other words, do this over the sink.
- 3 to 4 ounces uncooked bean thread noodles
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil (roasted or plain) – or grapeseed oil
- 4 cups chopped onion
- 3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 8 ounces very firm tofu, cut into thin strips
- 1 teaspoon salt (possibly more)
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, stemmed if necessary and quartered
- ½ pound savoy (aka Napa) cabbage, in thin strips (4 cups)
- 1 jar kimchi (14 ounces) – all contents
- Cook the noodles in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and rinse them in cold running water. Set them aside in a container of cold water until ready to use. (This keeps them separate.)
- Place a soup pot, large saucepan, or Dutch oven over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add the oil, swirl to coat the pan, and then add the onion, shiitakes, tofu, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Keep heat to medium or slightly stronger, as you stir and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes (until the onions begin to soften.) Stir in the domestic mushrooms and another ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the cabbage and another ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir from the bottom to bring up the cooked vegetables as you incorporate the cabbage. When it looks well blended, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it stew for about 10 minutes, adding another ¼ teaspoon salt after the first 5 minutes or so.
- Add the kimchi with all its liquid, possibly going in with scissors to cut any too-large pieces smaller (whatever is “bite-sized” to you. It’s also okay to leave them large.) Stir to blend, then thoroughly drain and add the noodles, stirring them in with a fork. No need to cook further at this point. Taste for salt – it might want just a touch more.
- Serve hot or warm, with any of the optional toppings.
(I bet you can guess what I chose!)
Torn cilantro leaves
A drizzle of Chinese toasted sesame oil or roasted peanut oil
A few drops of seasoned rice vinegar
Sriracha or chili oil – or another chili sauce
Red pepper flakes
Chopped, toasted peanuts or cashews
Steamed edamame (green soy beans) – really pretty on top!
Cooked green beans (thin ones- or cut lengthwise)
Strips of omelet
In the end, we both added three toppings: Sriracha sauce, roasted peanuts and fresh cilantro.