A recipe title appended with “ish” could be interpreted as a signal of inauthenticity and lowered standards.
Or, it could be a promise of everything you hope for in a weeknight dinner—minimal fussing resulting in tasty-enough food.
Cal Peternell’s vegetable chow mein-ish from Twelve Recipes is mostly the latter, though it’s much more than a tasty-enough weeknight meal—it is a tangle of saucy noodles and vegetables, and it’s fast becoming a family favorite.
The first time, I made it exactly as prescribed, with broccoli, carrots, and onions, what Peternell refers to as “the commonest vegetables.” My children, all of us, gobbled it up. I’ve since made it with various combinations of vegetables, but this latest with shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, and edamame has been my favorite yet.
What I love about the recipe is this: It works as well with spaghetti as with soba noodles, with asparagus as with broccoli, with or without protein. The dressing is made with 4 ingredients, all of which you likely have on hand: soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and water. Because the vegetables are sliced thinly, they cook in about the same amount of time as the noodles.
Moreover, the adaptations are endless: Peternell suggests using a number of seasonal vegetables—napa or savoy cabbage, snap or snow peas, peppers, spinach, zucchini—as well as adding sesame seeds, tofu, sliced flat omelets, or leftover chopped-up meats.
He also suggests stirring a spoonful of hoisin or oyster sauce or a splash of Shaoxing wine into the sauce mixture, but I’ve yet to try it—too worried these additions might bump the “ish” off my new favorite dinner.
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 8 ounces soba noodles
- 4 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 2 cups loosely packed julienned carrots
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced white or yellow onions
- 1 pound asparagus, end trimmed, sliced on the bias 1/4-inch thick (about 3 cups)
- 3 cups 1/4-inch-thick slices shiitake mushrooms (from about 7 ounces)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- pinches red pepper flakes or hot sauce, optional
- 1/3 cup shelled edamame, optional