- Jenny from Rancho Park

I am almost afraid to tell all of you that the vegetarian experiment lives on.

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Will I get another light scolding for caving in to my kid’s culinary curiosity? Will the vegans come in for a smackdown? Who knows what sort of antics and mayhem might ensue on a cooking website -- the quinoa might really start flying!

Not to worry, this is the second but likely final chapter in the story of how my 11-year-old has felt saddened of late about the specter of eating animals and tried to move toward a more meatless way of eating.

Last week we gave things a whirl with chick peas, but while I was fond of the dish, the textures and flavors were less-than-insanely-appealing to her. So I started wondering about food she always loves -- namely ramen noodles and broccoli -- and taking them to new, main-dish levels.

This is why the universe has brought us the search function, and thus, Ramen Stir-Fry with Sesame Shiitake and Ginger. This is your standard vegetable stir fry, torqued up with tofu. But rather than tossing the veggies over a bowl of rice, as is often the case with stir fry recipes, this one calls for mixing in ramen noodles, which results in a very hearty, and sort of retro, fun dish. Think dorm room hot pot, plus.

I get the impression from skylinetothesea that she wants us all to feel healthy and at one with the world when we eat this ramen. I get her point.

So let me break it down. The dish is flavored largely through the shiitake mushrooms it calls for, and the sauce you are constructing from rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. I used my best soy sauce -- Nijiya Extra Fancy Organic Whole Beans Soy Sauce -- and I think it made a difference.

While the author tells you to cook up your broccoli stems (I used florets because my daughter prefers them; I did not blanch them first and they came out great), carrots, red cabbage and mushrooms “for a couple minutes,” I suggest the mushrooms first, and once they have given off their liquid, adding the carrots, then the broccoli a minute or two later and then adding the cabbage at the end. I had some young garlic and used the bulb and some of the green part, which really elevated the overall flavor and vibe.

This is a great recipe to make -- as was suggested by some commenters last week -- with the help of an older child or sous chef who thought he had just come into the kitchen to pour a little prosecco and was suddenly saddled with a peeler. It just goes faster with a little assistance, and before you know it, the whole thing is ready for a nice, warm, deep bowl. This dish plays to a kid's skill set: peeling, stirring and tasting. And commenting, for better or worse. The chopping I choose to micro-manage, except the tofu, of course. 

Again, sauce is key so make it to your taste and be liberal in your pour; without it, this dish could quickly become something you order at the gym. 

I stared at my tween as she bit into tofu. “Not bad,” she proclaimed. “A little mushy.” Her fork filled with ramen, and I could see this was a semi-hit. I noticed she pushed her mushrooms to the side and I frowned. “I’m moving slow to new flavors mom,” she said. Well, aren’t we all.

Ramen Stir-Fry with Sesame, Shiitake and Ginger

Serves 2 to 3

  • 2 packets Ramen Noodles
  • 1 cup Broccoli stems, julienned thin
  • 1 cup Carrots, julienned thin
  • 1 cup Red Cabbage, chopped
  • 2 cups Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup Medium Firm Tofu, cubed & drained
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 tablespoon Fresh Ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Sesame Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Canola Oil
  • Chili Oil to taste

1. In separate pot, boil water and add Ramen noodles. Cook for 3 min. Drain.

2. Heat Wok with Canola Oil. Add Ginger and Garlic. Saute for a couple minutes.

3. While ginger and garlic cook, whisk sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar, set sauce aside.

4. Add veggies & mushrooms to wok. Toss for a couple minutes. Add tofu and toss.

5. Add cooked noodles to wok. Toss together with veggies and tofu. Pour sauce over. Combine well. Add Chili Oil to taste. Chow it. :)


By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, is the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.


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donnafaz April 19, 2010
Yum! Can't wait to try it!

drbabs April 19, 2010
This is a great week-night recipe, even for those of us who aren't struggling to be vegetarians--I could see a little shrimp instead of the tofu and/or maybe some edamame. (I would probably throw in some roasted peanuts, too, because I like nuts with everyhting.) I think it's so cool that you took the suggestions of the community and got your daughter to assist. I look forward to reading about more of your adventures.
Jestei April 19, 2010
Yes I think some chicken would work nicely too -- I would brown it in some peanut oil maybe and I love the idea of adding roasted peanuts. Maybe a handful of cilantro if you're feeling it.
AntoniaJames April 19, 2010
Great recipe and great write-up! Agree that the premium organic soy is worth the extra yen. I buy the big round blocks of ramen in Chinatown for the boys and as luck would have it, just found some yesterday left over from spring break, so I plan to try this within the next few days.
Jestei April 19, 2010
Great idea (the block) I need to look for that here in Los Angeles.