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10 Minute Meal: Butternut Squash Ramen Bowl

When it comes to ramen, I don't think there is a person in modern history without a connection or memory to warm noodles in a bowl and the comfort & subsequent memories they bring. I mean is there? For me and my siblings growing up, Mr. Noodles were a major treat, since while inexpensive and easy to make, my folks weren't exactly the 'fast food' types. But as most parents know, it is prudent to treat kids from time to time and so they did, even if it meant buying packages of cheap-as-borscht dry noodles that were laden with the salt & fake flavours from that little silver pouch, not to mention the MSG and whatever else goes into those iconic little packages of cheap & oh-so-tasty sustenance. Oh, Mr Noodles indeed.

Fast forward to now, when I'm lucky enough to be able to frequent (as many other Vancouverites are) a cosy little corner in Chinatown where the noodle bowl reigns supreme (and supremely done too I might add) without a salt pack or crinkly yellow package in site. For those who haven't been, Harvest Union is doing it all right, with hand-crafted bowls stuffed with all kinds of tasty, healthy surprises appealing to all eaters from vegan to those looking for meat options too. There is something for everyone at Harvest and it's here that I've recently re-discovered the bowl of hot soothing broth that contains not only perfectly cooked noodles but all the other possibilities that work together to make a meal worth waiting for.

It was after a working lunch there recently that I was inspired to finally create a noodle bowl of my own, having been teased by various recipes here and there in the blogosphere. I set out to test my ideas with a few requirements, starting with wanting a gluten-free option. I'd worked enough with rice noodles to know how easy to use and delicious they were, and they always leave me feeling content and just right (read: satisfied but not too full). Second, I wanted something that would be quick, without any extra cooking time, would use one pot only, and created a truly minimal mess. As you can see I kept it pretty simple. So simple in fact, that by using pre-made broth & soup, this meal will take you literally less than 10 minutes from start to the finished product. Of course, if you've got the time, the patience, and the produce, I'd suggest starting from scratch with this simple-as-can-be-squash soup and this homemade broth.

Either way, I hope you enjoy this as much as I have been. In just as much time as it takes to boil that water for the instant stuff, you can have a fully nutritious meal that'll hit the spot and keep you healthy, without sending your food budget sky-high either. No noodling around: this bowl is the real deal.

On a side note, I want to thank all of you who popped by last week to read up on the post to help Feed South Africa. I'm happy to report that because of that campaign, food bloggers and their readers were able to successfully raise the targeted goal of $5,000 to help feed 100 school children in South Africa for a year! It's initiatives like this that see communities all over the world get the help they need, and it doesn't happen easily. It always feels good to be a part of something special, and I'm so thrilled to know it was a success. Congrats to Nicole & everyone involved for a spectacular effort! x

Butternut Squash Ramen Bowl w/Rice Noodles, Tofu & Fresh Pea Shoots:

  • (1) cup veggie stock (pre-made or store-bought is fine)
  • (1.5) cups butternut squash soup, without a nut or dairy base (I used Pacific Brand)
  • (1/4) tsp salt
  • (1/4) tsp soy sauce
  • (1) strand of thick rice noodles (about the size of the circle between your index finger & thumb)
  • (1/4) cup medium soft tofu, rinsed and cubed
  • (1) scallion, sliced diagonally, greens only
  • (1/4) tsp Sambal Oelek
  • (1/2) tsp toasted sesame oil
  • (1) handful fresh pea shoots (or sliced fresh spinach in a pinch)
  • Black sesame seeds for garnish

This recipe makes one delicious, super hearty serving for one, and of course is easily multiplied with the right math skills and an extra bowl or two! Start by combining the soup and the broth in a medium pot, and stir to mix well. Add the salt & soy sauce and heat gently until bubbling and hot (basically to a light boil), about 3-4 minutes.

While the broth is heating up, cube the fresh tofu into one-inch pieces or a little smaller, as per your preference. Slice the green onion, and wash and trim the pea shoots, removing the tough stems as they can be tough to digest and chew. Take the strand of dry rice noodles (about a finger round or golf ball diameter), and with your hands, snap them in half to shorten to noodle strands, and place them in a generously sized serving bowl of your choice.

When the broth has reached a bubbling boil, remove it from the heat and pour all of it over the rice noodles directly into the serving bowl. Using a fork and a quick, firm hand, push any errant noodle strands under the broth to submerge any loose pieces. Cover the bowl immediately with a small plate, and set your timer for 6 minutes.

When the 6 minutes is up, remove the plate from the bowl and stir the noodles to break them up a little. To serve, push the noodles over to the side a little, making room for the tofu, scallions & pea shoots which can be arranged directly into the broth as you like. Place a little Sambal Oelek in the centre of the bowl, and finish by pouring the toasted sesame oil into the bowl along with the black sesame seeds to garnish.

Serve right away (though the best part may be waiting for the bowl to cool a little before eating) with chopsticks or a fork, if you are a little spastic with chopsticks like I am. I always try earnestly with the sticks for a few rounds before hitting the ease and comfort of a spoon and a fork. Whatever works, so long as you never need to reach for those cheap yellow packages again ;). Enjoy!


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