Out to lunch at a familiar bistro with my sister yesterday, I hit a kind of rut with ordering off the menu: none of the soups, sandwiches, flatbreads, or specials were sounding quite like they’d hit the spot. It was the Friday before 4th of July weekend, and I’d taken the afternoon off at my practice, turning the long weekend into a mini at-home vacation. But it was pretty sultry out, and some of my favorite dishes from the past (warm mini lobster rolls or a grilled cheese sandwich paired with tomato soup) felt too complicated. I wanted something scoopable: easy to eat, with the dish’s flavors blending in every bite. I opted for the chopped salad with medium-rare steak tips, but what I think I really wanted was a flavorful, twirlable noodle bowl.
And not just an “eatable” lunch, but a good one. I’m not an expert on Asian cuisine, but it’s a side of cooking I’m exploring more and more (with more and more confidence). I’m learning to be generous with flavors, while holding back on the brashness of the soy sauce, whose flavor and saltiness can clang into a sauce, overpowering and overshadowing the others.
Tips for cooking:
– I bought the ramen noodles that are sold alongside the soy sauce and other Asian-cuisine condiments, not the Top Ramen-style noodle soup mixes where the noodles have actually been fried before packaging.
– Pick whatever color of bell pepper you want; my favorites are any color except the green ones.
– Save unused chicken broth for leftovers, as the noodles will absorb fluid if refrigerated overnight.
Chicken Broccoli Ramen Bowl
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
8 ounces chicken broth, divided into one 2-ounce and one 6-ounce portion
2 bell peppers, washed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium head of broccoli, washed and chopped into small florets
3 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from ~1.5-inch piece of fresh ginger knob)
1 package Chinese or Ramen noodles
Peanut oil for greasing the pan during cooking
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1. Heat a medium saucepan full of water (for cooking the noodles).
2. Heat a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat, then add the chicken thighs, smooth side down. Sprinkle with just a bit of salt and pepper and cook about 5-7 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken over and cook on the other side. Use a meat thermometer to ensure they’re fully cooked before removing from the pan (temperature should reach 165 F). Remove chicken thighs from the pan and set aside on a separate plate.
3. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce by combining soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar in a bowl. Whisk to combine.
4. Pour the 2-ounce portion of chicken broth into the pan and scrape up any bits of chicken stuck to the pan. Add the bell pepper pieces to the skillet (drizzle in just a bit more peanut oil to keep things from sticking). Allow to cook for about 8-10 minutes until starting to soften. Add the broccoli, garlic, and ginger. Cook another 5-10 minutes, until the broccoli is also tender and the garlic-ginger mixture is fragrant and starting to color and soften.
5. While the vegetables are cooking, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Pour any accumulated chicken juices back into the skillet containing the vegetables.
6. Because the ramen noodles cook very quickly, make sure the vegetables are almost done before you add the noodles to the boiling water. Cook for ~3 minutes, stirring frequently breaking the raft of noodles apart while stirring.
7. Combine the chicken, vegetables, noodles and prepared sauce in the skillet (or saucepan or separate bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients). Stir to combine all ingredients thoroughly, adding the remaining chicken broth to thin the sauce to your desired consistency. Serve immediately.