Better Than Takeout: Vegetarian Lo Mein and Miso Soup

I love some good Chinese takeout, but it can get expensive and it’s not exactly waistline-friendly.

The best part about this lo mein recipe is that it’s practically a 30-minute meal! Which, for me, says a lot because I’ve cooked Some of Rachael Ray’s 30-minute meal recipes and they always seem to take me an hour (or more!). This recipe saved me so much time because the only thing I had to chop that night was the carrots. I chopped the whole head of cabbage a few nights before for my Hawaiian barbecue and slaw, so I reserved 1 1/2 cups for my lo mein. I bought the mushrooms already chopped (travesty, I know, but they were the same price as the whole ones – why not save a little time?). And bean sprouts = no chopping!

Vegetarian Lo Mein

  • 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 cups Napa cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 2-2 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 1 8-oz package of sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 2 tsp safflower oil for frying (vegetable oil is fine too)
  • 1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce (you could also substitute 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes to achieve the same effect)
  • 1 tsp corn starch

Start water boiling for the spaghetti. While that’s working, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, ginger, Sriracha, and corn starch together in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. TIPS* If you grate the garlic as opposed to chopping it finely you get the added benefit of saving time, and no one bites down on a large piece of uncooked garlic. For ginger, I love to chop it into inch sections and freeze it right when I bring it home. It always makes grating ginger so much easier because ginger tends to be tough and fibrous. If it’s frozen when you grate it, it grates cleanly and easily (kind of like ginger snow!). And another bonus for freezing ginger is that it will keep in your freezer for months!

 

Start a large wok or skillet on medium-high heat with safflower or vegetable oil to begin the vegetable stir fry. I used safflower oil for two reasons 1) I already had it in my pantry, and I really don’t use it for anything but stir fry, so I figured why not use it? And 2) Safflower oil is particularly good for stir frying because it’s a high-heat oil and it doesn’t make your stir fry excessively greasy, like vegetable oil can sometimes do. You just want to be sure to only add 2 tsp of whatever oil you’re using. I know it sounds shy, but the mushrooms and cabbage give off liquid as they cook so your pan isn’t going to dry out.

When you drop the pasta to cook, add the carrots to the wok and stir fry about 4-5 mins. To help them steam, put the lid on your wok when they’ve been frying for about 2 mins.

 

Don’t forget to salt and pepper your vegetables as you go! Yes your sauce has a bunch of flavor in it, but you want your veggies to taste good too. Go a little shy on the salt because of the soy sauce. Once your carrots are starting to get soft, add the mushrooms to the pan and saute about 3-4 mins with the lid on.

 

When the mushrooms get slightly soft, add the shredded cabbage and steam with the lid on for about 3-4 mins.

 

I know it looks like a lot, but trust me that cabbage cooks way down. When the cabbage is cooked slightly, add the bean sprouts and toss to saute for about 2-3 mins.

 

This part got a little tricky. I drained off a little bit of the liquid from the cabbage and mushrooms so that my pasta wouldn’t get too wet. I also took out about half of my veggies at this point and put them in the bottom of my big serving dish (my wok was overflowing as it was. Adding 1 lb of pasta to that I wouldn’t have been able to toss it!). After all that, I added my pasta and reserved sauce mixture to the pan on medium heat to toss everything together until my sauce thickened.

 

After my sauce thickened, I added this mixture to my reserved veggies and tossed the whole thing together in my serving dish. Let me tell you, this mad a metric TON of lo mein.

 

See? A TON! This recipe could easily feed a family of 6. I fixed myself a healthy bowl of it, and it looked like I had barely made a dent in it.

As for the miso soup, this really isn’t a recipe it’s more of a pantry snack tip.

I’ve mentioned before that I do most of my shopping at a store that I’ve lovingly dubbed “the Asian store (AKA Nam Dae Mun).” This is where I purchased some of the best instant miso soup EVER.

 I know, it’s all in hieroglyphics (so are the directions). Once I figured out how it was all arranged (one dry packet of tofu, seasoning, and seaweed and another packet of miso paste) it’s so easy (and HELLA cheap) to make! I purchased this bag, that makes 8 individual servings of soup, for about $1.50 at the Asian store.

Whereas, for the Kikkoman version of the same product, I used to pay $3 for only 4 packets of soup at Kroger. Kikkoman is still good if you’d like to try it, just more expensive.

Miso soup is a great pantry staple for a light afternoon snack or, as I used it,  a supper side item. The packets travel well (just 2 tiny dry packets) and all you need to make it is 2/3 cup of hot water. This miso is SO good for you and much more flavorful than that “miso” broth with a mushroom and scallion in it that most restaurants serve unless you ask for authentic tofu miso soup.

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