Cruciferous Meal in a Bowl

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Asian Noodle Bowls have been a long-standing go-to for vegetarians who don’t cook. Full of comforting, healthy portions of noodles, cruciferous vegetables in season and protein such as tofu, these one-dish meals are easy to make and very satisfying. Martha Rose Shulman shares this fabulous anti-cancer one-bowl meal with fresh broccoli and shiitake mushrooms.

I first enjoyed a “meal in a bowl” at a restaurant in Berkeley, California. The concept is a simple one: a bowl of comforting broth, noodles, a protein, a vegetable or two, and fresh herbs. I prefer these bowls with rich, earthy, nourishing buckwheat noodles, one of my favorite foods. The soups are warming, filling, and, at the same, light. They go well with sake, beer, or white wine, or water or green tea.

Baby broccoli has thinner stems and more delicate, elongated flowers than regular broccoli.

Japanese-California Meal in a Bowl with Baby Broccoli, Shiitakes, and Tofu

Makes 4 servings



  • 6 to 8 cups Very Simple Kombu Broth and Vegetable Broth*
  • Soy sauce or salt (or both)
  • 6-ounces Japanese soba noodles, cooked and tossed with 2 teaspoons dark sesame, sunflower or grapeseed oil
  • 6 to 8 ounces tofu (soft or firm)
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, dark green parts keep separate
  • 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed (use for both if desired), caps thinly sliced
  • 1/4 pound baby broccoli, flowers detached from the stems, stems peeled if desired and sliced 1/2 inch thick.

*Very Simple Kombu Broth

Makes 2 Quarts 

  • 2 (4 to 6-inch) kombu strips
  • 2 quarts warm water
  • Salt, sugar, and soy sauce, to taste (optional)

Makes 5 cups 

  • 1 (4 to 6-inch) kombu strip
  • 5 cups water
  • Salt, sugar, and soy sauce, to taste (optional)

Kombu infusion

  1. Wipe the strips of the kombu with a damp paper towel and place in a large bowl. Add the warm water and soak for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.
  2. Remove the Kombu from the water. The seawood will be viscious and the stock slightly viscious. Discard the kombu or use in another dish. Strain the broth and refrigerate until ready to use. Season with salt, a little sugar, and soy sauce if desired.

Simmered Kombu Broth

  1. Combine the kombu with 5 cups water in a pot. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the kombu from the broth (discard or use in another dish).
  3. Season the broth to taste with salt, a little sugar, and soy sauce if desired.


  1.  Bring the broth to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding soy sauce and/or salt to taste.
  2. If the noodles have been refrigerated, warm them by placing them in a strainer and dipping the strainer into the simmering broth. Then distribute the noodles among 4 deep or wide soup bowls.
  3. Add the shiitakes and baby broccoli (both stems and flowers) and tofu to the broth and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, until the broccoli is just tender. Add the tofu and the white and light green parts of the scallions, cover, and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 3 minutes.
  4. Ladle the soup into the bowls, taking care to distribute the tofu, vegetables, and scallions evenly. Sprinkle the dark green part of the scallions over each serving.

Advance Preparation:

The noodles can be cooked ahead and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The stock can also be made a day or two ahead.

Substitutions and additions:

If you wish, you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons miso to the broth when you add the tofu. After the covered soup sits for 3 minutes, stir the soup to dissolve the miso. Serve as directed.

Chives or Chinese chives make a nice substitute for, or addition to, the green part of the scallions.


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Cancer Road Trip with Pat Wetzel



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