I've just come back from the rather fabulous Chinese supermarket that I shop at in Manchester. It just about has every 'unusual' ingredient you can find there, and I like to pick up things that I've never heard of or used before, in order to experiment.
Today I came back with some sweet potato vermicelli (did you know it even existed? I didn't!), a variety of Chinese mushrooms including enoki (aka flammulina mushrooms), and some dried kelp, among other things.
I decided I would put together lunch from a few of the items that I bought, and I came up with this little number, Sweet Potato Vermicelli with Enoki Mushrooms in Miso Soup.
Now I'll be the first to admit that miso soup doesn't excite me that much very often. But I sometimes really love it when I'm in the mood for something light and not heavy in fat or feeling. Today, I very much am in that mood.
I was ill over the weekend, and only ate toast and fruit yesterday. So while I wanted to cook up something experimental, I didn't want anything that would be harsh on my tummy.
Also - with the enoki/flammulina mushrooms it seems I've unwittingly picked out a fungi that has great medicinal benefits, having done a bit of research. They apparently have excellent cancer-fighting properties and are antioxidant. The black fungus that I picked up too may also have some health bonuses.
So - the result for this dish is something simple, light and not too highly flavoured, that is great for a healthy lunch or an appetiser before a heavier main course. The flavour mostly comes from the miso paste, therefore use a good quality one, although the enoki mushrooms add a creaminess and the wonderful aroma of creamed mushroom soup.
This recipe is gluten free as long as you ensure the miso paste doesn't contain wheat or barley, as they sometimes do. I like the addition of the peanuts for a bit more 'bite', but it's up to you whether you want to include. Chilli would add some kick too, if desired.
If you want to make this more filling, then try including some deep-fried or baked tofu.
Sweet Potato Vermicelli & Enoki Mushrooms in Miso Soup
50g / 1¼ cups dried enoki (flammulina) mushrooms
30g / 1 cup dried black fungus strips
150g / 5 ounces sweet potato vermicelli
Large handful of bean sprouts
900ml / 4 cups salty vegetable broth
4 tbsp yellow miso paste
4 tbsp dry roasted peanuts (or just roasted & salted if you prefer)
2 spring onions, cut lengthways and then into 1 inch pieces
1. First, quickly wash the dried enoki mushrooms in cold water, drain and then put them into a bowl. Pour boiling hot water over them and allow them to soak for 20 minutes. Drain after soaking.
2. Bring the vermicelli and the black fungus strips to the boil in a saucepan, and cook on a high simmer for about 5-6 minutes. After they have cooked, drain.
3. In another pan, heat the vegetable broth to a boil and dissolve the miso paste into it while heating (use a whisk for a speedier result). Add the beansprouts, and the black fungus and vermicelli, then simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add the drained enoki mushrooms to the pan along with the dry roasted peanuts. Stir well and then let the soup simmer for about 2-3 more minutes.
5. Serve in soup bowls with a garnish of the spring onion on the top.
PS. If you have leftovers of this, the vermicelli will soak all the miso - and it then turns into a very yummy chowmein type dish! Add a few more veggies to get another meal out of it :)