Shrimp is eaten widely throughout Asia, mostly because it tastes good and blends winningly with other flavors, but also because it’s an excellent source of protein. I match it with Thai basil and soba noodles to celebrate these Eastern influences. Think about it: This recipe calls for shrimp, basil, and noodles but is not Italian! I adore Italian shrimp dishes, such as garlicky scampi or pasta with red sauce and shrimp, but I took a different tack here by including dashi (Japanese soup stock) powder. Also called dashi flakes or hon dashi, it is a mixture of dried bonito flakes, kombu, and seasonings. Try it, you’ll love it!
I grow several types of basil in the garden, including Thai basil, a narrow-leaved, green herb with purple flowers. Try it and you’ll want to use it in all dishes requiring basil, Asian or not. If you only have sweet basil or opal basil growing in the garden, use it. Fresh basil is good basil!
This recipe requires the extra step of cooking and shocking the soba noodles before they are added to the broth. This keeps the noodles from overcooking when you heat them in the broth. Finally, I like to steam the shrimp in a bamboo steamer, which provides unique flavor. If you don’t have a bamboo steamer, a stainless-steel one works just fine.–Michel Nischan
Basil-Steamed Shrimp over Soba Noodles Recipe
Hands-On Time: | Total Time: | Serves 4
- One 8-ounce package dried soba noodles
- 2 scallions
- 1 orange
- 1 ounce fresh ginger (about 2 inches), peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 small bunch fresh Thai or other basil, plus 10 whole leaves and 4 sprigs
- 16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into very thin strips
- 6 to 8 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons instant dashi powder, or 2 bouillon cubes
- 1. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and boil for 2 minutes, or until just al dente. Drain the noodles and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water to shock and stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
- 2. Trim off 1 inch of the green tops of the scallions and discard. Thinly slice the green tops about halfway to the white base and set aside. Cut off the white base and split the base in half lengthwise. Set aside.
- 3. Using a vegetable peeler, remove only the orange part, or zest, from the skin of the orange, being careful to leave the white pith right beneath it behind. Reserve the orange for another use.
- 4. Sprinkle the orange zest and ginger slices with salt and rub them between your fingers to work the salt into them.
- 5. Lay the halved scallion bases and half of the ginger slices and orange zest on the perforated bottom of a bamboo steamer basket to make a “flavor mat” large enough to accommodate all of the shrimp in a single layer.
- 6. Lay half of the basil bunch over the flavor mat, being sure to leave some of the other components of the mat exposed. Lay the shrimp on top of the mat and top with the remaining ginger, orange zest, and basil bunch.
- 7. Evenly spread the red pepper strips around the shrimp. Top the pepper strips with the mushrooms.
- 8. Pour the water into the steamer pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the dashi powder and simmer until fully dissolved. Put the steamer basket over the simmering base, cover, and steam for about 6 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and are just cooked through. Remove the steamer and set aside, covered, to keep warm.
- 9. Add the noodles to the simmering broth just long enough to heat them through. Divide the noodles and broth among 4 warmed bowls. Carefully transfer the red pepper strips and mushroom slices to the bowls. In the center of each bowl, arrange 4 shrimp, overlapping them slightly, over the noodles. Discard the flavor mat.
- 10. Using a sharp knife, thinly slice the 10 basil leaves. Sprinkle the julienned leaves and the reserved green scallion slices over the broth in each bowl. Nestle a sprig of fresh basil in the center of each bowl and serve.
Basil-Steamed Shrimp over Soba Noodles Recipe © 2005 Michel Nischan. Photo © 2005 Susie Cushner. All rights reserved.