BenGusto™ Buddy Class: Japanese Noodles

Chefs of the BenGusto™ Buddy Cooking Class flew across the Pacific and into Asia last Thursday (1/15) to delve into the fine art of Japanese cuisine!

Halle adds her crushed garlic to the pot as CJ continues to stir.

Halle adds her crushed garlic to the pot as CJ continues to stir.

(from left to right) Robert, Chris, and Andrew

(from left to right) Robert, Chris,  Andrew, and Marcus

Up until then, we had always stayed within the borders of Italian and American cuisine. This lesson on “Japanese noodles in broth with snow peas, bok choy, and tofu” was different, but all the chefs were up to the challenge.

I hold a fresh piece of ginger to Halle's nose.

I hold a fresh piece of ginger to Halle’s nose.

In order to ease into Japanese cuisine, Robert and I warmed up by working on something we all know: focaccia, the classic Italian bread from the Ligurian Riviera. Together, we seasoned it and put it in the oven to be ready for dipping in the noodle broth at dinner.

At the beginning of class, Robert and I seasoned some focaccia (an Italian bread typical of the Riviera) with salt, pepper, olive oil, and oregano. Here it is out of the oven. You can see that Robert wanted to concentrate most of the oregano in one spot, and that's why the focaccia has that center dark circle.

At the beginning of class, Robert and I seasoned some focaccia (an Italian bread typical of the Riviera) with salt, pepper, olive oil, and oregano. Here it is out of the oven. You can see that Robert wanted to concentrate most of the oregano in one spot, and that’s why the focaccia has that center dark circle.

Before touching any pots or pans, we worked on preparing our mis en place (a French culinary term for “putting in place”) of ingredients, laying out the required produce to be added to the pot. Penny and CJ scrubbed the mushrooms, Andrew and Aly sliced the bok choy, Halle crushed the garlic, I chopped the fresh lemongrass, etc. etc.

This class worked great because we split the work. In this scene, I'm chopping the mushrooms while Penny and Aly work on grating ginger.

This class worked great because we split the work. In this scene, I’m chopping the mushrooms while Penny and Aly work on grating ginger.

Penny and CJ scrub the shiitake mushrooms clean of dirt.

Penny and CJ scrub the shiitake mushrooms clean of dirt.

Ms. Dixon comes behind Halle to help her press the garlic cloves. They were thrown in with CJ's mixture of olive oil, pepper, onion and shallot in the pot.

Ms. Dixon comes behind Halle to help her press the garlic cloves. They were thrown in with CJ’s mixture of olive oil, pepper, onion and shallot in the pot.

Penny grates ginger, while Aly and Andrew prepare the bok choy (a Chinese cabbage cousin).

Penny grates ginger, while Aly and Andrew prepare the bok choy (a Chinese cabbage cousin).

(from left to right) Andrew, Chris, and Robert. Andrew looks determined to slice up that bok choy.

(from left to right) Andrew, Chris, and Robert. Andrew looks determined to slice up that bok choy.

Our steps to making Japanese Noodles with Bok Choy, Snow Peas, and Tofu:

– Heat chopped onion, shallot, and shishito pepper in olive oil in a large pot on medium heat.

CJ manned the pot the entire evening. Here he is pouring olive oil over choppped onion, shallot, and shishito pepper, a mild green pepper typical of Japan.

CJ manned the pot the entire evening. Here he is pouring olive oil over chopped onion, shallot, and shishito pepper, a mild green pepper typical of Japan.

– Add the snow peas, salt, and crushed garlic. Stir.

CJ finishes pouring in the first of our main vegetables: the green snow peas.

CJ finishes pouring in the first of our main vegetables: the green snow peas.

– Add the sliced mushroom and bok choy. Sprinkle in some soy sauce, fish sauce, and rice vinegar.

Marcus and I add the bok choy that Andrew and Aly worked on.

Marcus and I add the bok choy that Andrew and Aly worked on.

– Add chicken broth to fill about 2/3 of the pot. Throw in the grated ginger and lime zest (very little lime zest).

– Boil some Japanese noodles and pour them into the soup.

I really like the light captured in this photo. The steam rising around CJ's hand, the wooden spoon, and, of course, the "BenGusto" title under the spotlight.

I really like the light captured in this photo. The steam rising around CJ’s hand, the wooden spoon, and, of course, the “BenGusto” title under the spotlight.

– Mix in cubed tofu, green onion, and sesame seeds.

Andrew chops the tofu

Andrew dices the tofu into cubes.

The noodles are in, the tofu is added, and the pot is ready to be brought to the table.

The noodles are in, the tofu is added, and the pot is ready to be brought to the table.

– Finish with sriracha sauce and/or toasted sesame oil if desired.

The class was on the full side with 12 chefs total. Ms. Dixon, my esteemed business teacher and friend of Best Buddies director Ms. Crawford, attended for the first time. By the next class, we might have half the school faculty packed in the kitchen.

Ms. Dixon (my business teacher) and I try to take a selfie at the table. Bad manners.

Ms. Dixon (my business teacher) and I try to take a selfie at the table. Bad manners.

Watching everybody work so diligently on preparing this dish was really a magnificent sight. We were able to delegate each task to different groups of people, making things go more fluidly and keeping everyone busy at all times. By the time everything was laid out on the table, we still had the energy to have a great family-style meal together, keeping the conversation lasting for a good hour and well past the set 5:00 – 7:00 PM time. Some parents even ended up joining us in the dining room.

Buddies Halle and Kelly

Buddies Halle and Kelly

(from left to right) Robert and Marcus pose.

(from left to right) Robert and Marcus pose.

Ms. Dixon captured a nice panorama here. The tastiest sport in action!

Ms. Dixon captured a nice panorama here. The tastiest sport in action!

 

 

4 responses on “BenGusto™ Buddy Class: Japanese Noodles

  1. What deliciousness! Halle is now crazy about making soups at home! When she comes in the kitchen with her chef hat on I know what we’re doing. Please get her as psyched about doing the dishes! Also, we’ll send you a photo of her scary – cool chef apron she got for Christmas. Cheers to you Ben!

  2. Ben, What fun it is to watch all of your “chefs” ALSO having fun as they continue to learn more and more about YOUR passion…COOKING! South Lakes HS should be the LEADER in classes/projects just like what you are doing with these lucky young people!

    • Thank you, Mrs. Johnson! Fortunately, the high school is filled with great students working on exciting, creative projects in benefit of others.
      All the best,
      -Ben

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