This is a beautiful South East Asian-style soup, made with dried shiitake mushrooms and miso paste. It has a thin, lightly-flavoured stock, making it a perfect light evening meal, or even a starter to something more robust. You can get the dried mushrooms in any Chinese supermarket (you should be able to get the lemongrass and the peppercorns here too), and they take an hour of soaking before you can cook them. The noodles are available at most large supermarkets, along with the other ingredients. Apart from the soaking time, this dish is quick and easy to make and will be a delight at the dinner table.
Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour soaking time. Cooking time: about 30 minutes.
2 tbsp oil
10-12 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 1 hour, then squeezed out and sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
2 large spring onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed and chopped
A generous pinch of Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp miso paste
1 tsp cornflour
1 litre light veg stock
50ml tamari (or light soy sauce)
2 heads pak choi, stems cut off and washed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 x 150g packs ready-cooked udon noodles
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the mushrooms, peppers and onions, for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Now add the garlic, lemongrass, Sichuan peppercorns and ginger paste and cook for 2 minutes more.
After this time, put in the miso paste and stir in the cornflour. Pour in the veg stock and the tamari and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Add a little salt and pepper, if required, then put in the pak choi and the noodles. Stir them in and simmer for another 5 minutes or so before serving.