Hot Sesame Rice Noodles with Asparagus, Shiitakes and Pea Shoots

Hot and steamy rice noodles get loads of flavor from ginger, garlic, tamari, toasted sesame oil, and lots of green vegetables in this gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan recipe.

This week has been full of excitement. First, I got to test a Mark Bittman recipe and style a shoot for the New York Times. My friend Craig Lee, a photojournalist who shot for the San Francisco Chronicle for many years, recommended me when the editors were looking for a Bay Area tester/stylist to work on Bittman’s new California Inspirations column. Unfortunately, the recipe was a bit of a doozy on the styling front. Cardoons are boiled then sauteed to a dingy brown with mushrooms and breadcrumbs. And to top it all off, the photography editor told me she wanted the plate to be “light and bright, happy and summery.” And yet the dish was entirely brown, nary a fresh herb, lemon wedge or pepper flake to brighten up the plate. Luckily Sarah had my back with some bright props to put around the scene. Unluckily, I still have a bunch of cardoons! I’ll be tackling those today and force-feeding them to Sarah, Jessica and Mitch when they come to dinner tonight.

Next, I was interviewed by Gabriel Soh for his podcast The Dinner Special. We spent half an hour chatting about all things food, including but not limited to my love of vegetables, Jamie Oliver, and funk in the kitchen (er, the music, that is). Feel free to take a gander here.

Speaking of thistles, I had the gustatory pleasure of attending an artichoke feast prepared by the talented Phi of Princess Tofu. Artichokes starred in every dish, including an aperitif made with gin-soaked artichokes, Cynar and Cocchi Americano (recipe from Gastronomista) and artichoke gelato, both shockingly good. In between there was artichoke dip with Adventure Bread, shaved artichoke and green almond salad, artichoke arancini, and a variation of the artichoke-stuffed chestnut pasta that Sarah and I posted (and made a video about) last week.

The fun didn’t stop there. There was a morning matcha tasting with Encha organic matcha, a rainy-day Alameda Antiques Fair with Sarah and Todd, and drinks at Abv with a new and dear friend Chef Hollie who has created a fabulous plant-based recipe program for kiddos and their families.

My niece came into town from Manhattan where she’s studying acting and musical theater, and brought a couple of friends. The five of us with Jay wandered over to a tasty Vietnamese restaurant in our neighborhood. We ordered a bunch of dishes to share, including some pan-fried rice noodles which are a favorite of mine. They showed up as they always do, a tangle of sticky rice noodles (the type used for Pad Thai) sitting atop some briefly cooked vegetables. The girls helped themselves to noodles, but due to the sticky factor, ended up accidentally hogging all of them and leaving only the veggies. Jay and I didn’t go hungry, but we did wind up with an unsated noodle craving. Lesson learned: next time, two orders of noodles when teenagers are about.

This meant we needed to make our own noodles, so I whipped up this dish that we’ve been loving lately. It gets plenty of flavor from garlic, ginger and soy sauce, a dash of toasted sesame oil, and a mess of vegetables: asparagus, scallions, shiitakes, and pea greens. The noodles stuck to the pan when I tried to fry them, so I just toss everything together with tamari and toasted sesame oil. We added some tofu (the smoked jalapeño from Tofu Yu is actually compressed yuba) and ate ALL THE NOODLES.

Once you’ve prepped the vegetables, these noodles make a quick meal, and the leftovers (should you save them from hungry noodle hogs) keep brilliantly.

And best of all, you don’t have to share.

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Oodles of noodles:
Vegetarian Miso Ramen with Rice Noodles, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Sesame Broccolini
Miso and Soba Noodle Soup with Roasted Sriracha Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms
Roasted Zucchini and Soba Noodle Summer Rolls

Hot Sesame Rice Noodles with Asparagus, Shiitakes and Pea Shoots

Feel free to play fast and loose with the vegetables here. Other tasty choices would be baby spinach, broccoli or broccolini, brussels sprouts, or peas of any sort.

Makes 3-4 servings

12 ounces brown rice spaghetti (or other noodles of your choice)
12-16 ounces firm tofu (I used smoked jalapeño from Tofu Yu), in 1″ pieces
12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into thick pieces
6 scallions, cut on diagonal into 2″ pieces
1 pound asparagus, fibrous ends snapped off, sliced 3″ on the diagonal
4 ounces pea greens, tough stems removed (or baby spinach)
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3″ fresh ginger root, cut into 1″ matchsticks
4 tablespoons sunflower oil (or other mild vegetable oil)
1 tablespoon mirin or white wine
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (black or otherwise)
ichimi togarashi or other chile flakes, optional for heat

Have all your vegetables prepared before you get started; the cooking will happen quickly. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, and keep it covered and simmering until you’re ready to cook the noodles.

Meanwhile, coat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (such as cast-iron) with 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil and heat over a medium-high flame until it shimmers. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook on the first side until golden, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook on the second side until golden, 1-2 minutes. Remove to a plate. Repeat with the remaining tofu, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, swirl to coat, and add the mushrooms, garlic and ginger. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Pour the mirin over the mushrooms – there will be much sizzling – and stir up all the good stuff on the bottom of the pan. Remove the mushrooms to a large bowl.

Add a bit more oil and cook the scallions until bright green, 2 minutes, and add to the bowl with the mushrooms. Repeat with the asparagus, then the pea greens, cooking just until wilted and adding more oil as needed.

Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Meanwhile, re-warm the vegetables in the skillet. Drain the noodles well, then put them back into the now-empty pot and add the hot vegetables. Pour the toasted sesame oil and tamari over the noodles and toss with tongs to coat. Sprinkle in the sesame seeds and tofu, and give one more gentle toss. Taste for seasoning, adding more tamari or sesame oil if you feel it needs it.

Serve the noodles in wide bowls and pass the togarashi for those who like a kick. Leftovers keep well for a day or two and can be reheated in a skillet.

36 thoughts on “Hot Sesame Rice Noodles with Asparagus, Shiitakes and Pea Shoots”

  1. Wow, how exciting to have styled and tasted a Mark Bittman recipe! Congratulations on that!!! That Artichoke Feast sounds incredible, I would love to go to one of those sometime!
    I was kinda crackin up at how the teenagers at all the noodles : D
    I absolutely love the lighting on all your photos and especially love the steam!

  2. Yum yum yum, I've been enjoying a similar dish lately, lots veggies swimming in a tasty mix garlic and ginger and soy over noodles. It's such a good way to transition from winter to spring…still hearty but also fresh. Artichoke gelato sounds so tasty! I tried celery gelato the other day and was pleasantly surprised…who knew?

    1. Oooo, now I'm fantasizing about celery gelato! I had cucumber ice cream a few summers ago and it was also insanely tasty. So glad to have found your lovely site! Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Yum! My boyfriend and I made this for dinner tonight and were delighted. We used a garlic pepper smoked tofu and buckwheat and sweet potato soba noodles. It was quick and simple to prepare and full of earthy spice. Your pictures are so spectacular and the fact that your recipes are always just as good is seriously impressive! We didn't really measure the seasonings (sesame oil, tamari, etc) just tossed it all together until our tastebuds sang. Yum yum, thanks for another great recipe.

    1. Thank you so much for making my recipe, and for the super kind words!! Garlic pepper smoked tofu and buckwheat sweet potato noodles sound like HEAVEN.

  4. You had such an amazing week and I'm so so excited for all the great things going on for you! And on top of all that, you're writing a cookbook and churning out steamy bowls of deliciousness like this! Your talent and creative energy is inspiring <3 <3

  5. Cardoooooooons!!!! That's the name! I'm on it! These photos are making me hungry — and I just ate breakfast! So beautiful and tasty — and that image with the steam!!! You're such a pro!!!
    Oooh can we meet at ABV one of these days?
    Congrats on the NYT feature! Off to read it now.

    1. Thanks lady! I always say cardooooooons in my head. :) Yes yes yes to Abv, let's do it! They have these lamb sausage felafel corndogs right now that are insane…

  6. Sounds like you had a fantastic week! I hope I'm due for one this week myself!
    When you mentioned all the artichoke dishes, it reminded me of the Asparagus festival in Stockton…and how they even do Asparagus Margaritas (Asparitas!) and desserts with asparagus. Now, I'm 100% positive you and Phi had much better dishes than that!
    Congrats on all the exciting news! I would love to see how you turned brown food into something light and bright. Pretty please? :)

  7. This looks delicious Alanna. I haven't been to the blog in a while and it is truly beautiful. Congratulations. And kudos for all of the wonderful goings-on right now in your world. Yay!

  8. These are all such exciting things, congratulations on the styling job for Mark Bittman – that's amazing! I bet you made those cardoons look beautiful! I actually just listened to your interview the other day and it was so nice to hear you chat! :)
    Delicious-looking noodles, too! xo

  9. Hi,
    I made this yesterday. I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand but it turned out delicious ! I used baby bella mushrooms, baby spinach, …

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