The Blue Apron Guide to Asian Noodles

Noodles are a pillar of many Asian cuisines, and the key to many beloved dishes across the continent. Attempting a full taxonomy would be nearly impossible: there are about as many types of noodles as there are uses for them, from simple breakfasts to celebratory dinners. Asian noodles are sold fresh, dried, or frozen, and range in color from bright yellow to completely translucent. Region-specific ingredients increase the selection even further, and unlike Italian pasta, for which an al dente texture is king across all shapes, some Asian noodles are tender and springy while others chewy and dense. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite varieties to help you discern the difference between soba and vermicelli in the grocery store, on a menu, or in your Blue Apron box. Slurp away!

Wheat Noodles

Wheat noodles are perhaps the first that come to mind when considering the world of Asian noodles. Rounded or flat, cut or hand-pulled, wheat noodles are the backbone of many soups and stir-fries, lending their sturdy chew to light broths and heavy sauces alike. 

Shanghai noodles

Also called cumian, which literally translates to “thick noodles,” Shanghai noodles are a chewy variety made from wheat flour and water. You’ll find them in soups and stir-fries, particularly in northern China.

Udon

A Japanese noodle variety that can be served hot or cold, udon is very thick and fat, occasionally flat but most often rounded, like super inflated spaghetti. Udon is chewy and dense, standing up to hot broths or stir-frying without falling apart. Buy this noodle fresh, frozen, or dried. Some fresh or frozen versions don’t even require boiling, and can be added straight to a pan of vegetables and sauce or a pot of hot broth to heat through. 

Blue Apron favorite: One Pan Beef & Udon Noodle Stir-Fry with Snow Peas & Sweet Peppers

Somen

A variety of very skinny wheat noodle in Japanese cuisine, somen preparation shifts with the seasons. In the winter, look for it in steaming soups; in summer, to help beat the heat, the noodles are served chilled with a cold dipping sauce, and sometimes even over ice. Somen is also the star of a fun Japanese culinary tradition called “flowing noodles,” or nagashi-somen, in which diners use chopsticks to pluck noodles out of a bamboo chute as they flow by in a rush of cold water.

Soba

A slight variation on the wheat noodle recipe — namely, subbing in all or part of the wheat flour for gluten-free buckwheat flour — yields soba, another Japanese favorite. Like udon, soba can be served hot or cold, but is slightly too tender for stir-fry preparations; its nutty flavor shines in soups, alongside a dipping sauce, or tossed with vegetables in a bright dressing. 

Blue Apron favorite: Soba Noodles with Snow Peas & Marinated Enoki Mushrooms

Ramen

Ramen is a springy Japanese noodle served either in hot broths or flavorful sauces. Buy ramen dried (with a strong flavoring packet to create instant soup broth) or fresh; both forms require only a few minutes in boiling water. Ramen noodles contain wheat flour, water, and an alkaline agent called kansui, which helps the noodles maintain their tender texture while sitting in hot soup.

Blue Apron favorite: Mushroom Mazemen with Bok Choy & Soft-Boiled Eggs

Egg Noodles

Technically a sub-category of wheat noodles, egg noodles contain the same basic ingredients, but with the addition of — obviously — eggs. The resulting dough is yellow in color, but be warned: some brands simply add dye to their wheat noodles to approximate the look of egg noodles without actually adding any egg! Always check the ingredients list to ensure you have true egg noodles on your hands before buying.

Lo mein

Thick and dense, lo mein noodles hold their own against heavy sauces and rigorous cooking methods. A Chinese-American menu staple also called lo mein is a flavorful stir-fry dish featuring these noodles, vegetables, and your choice of protein.

Blue Apron favorite: Pork Lo Mein with Bok Choy & Celery

Chow mein

While they look similar to thinly-sliced wonton noodles, chow mein noodles get crispy in hot oil, lending an addictive texture to stir-fries. This is another noodle with which a Chinese-American menu item shares its name; though always studded with vegetables and protein, chow mein from a restaurant is either steamed and tender or fried and crispy.

Wonton

Wonton noodles are made from the same dough as wonton wrappers, which means they’re springy and tender in texture. They’re sold in a variety of thicknesses, and you’ll most often find them in hot soups.

Blue Apron favorite: Sweet & Spicy Wonton Noodles with Soft-Boiled Eggs

Rice Noodles

The rice noodle section of your local Asian grocery store can be an overwhelming place; the range of sizes, shapes, thicknesses, and textures is vast, though most contain just rice flour and water, making them naturally gluten-free. Some are sold simply as “rice noodles” (like what you’d find in pad thai or khao soi) but two of our favorite more specific varieties are vermicelli and tteok-bokki.

Vermicelli

While “vermicelli” is a term used to describe thin noodles across various global cuisines, rice vermicelli specifically (also called rice sticks) is a favorite in East and Southeast Asian cooking. The noodles are pale white, nearly translucent, and are most commonly sold dried in folded, crunchy bunches. Though you’ll often find rice vermicelli stir-fried or in soup, a traditional Vietnamese dish called bún chả features the noodles simply boiled, then topped with pork, sauce, and herbs.

Tteok-bokki

Though technically not noodles, these Korean rice cakes warrant a mention for their super chewy texture and easy preparation. Look for tteok-bokki in the freezer section, either as little logs or oblong slices; they can be added to a pot of boiling water straight from frozen, and bob to the top in just a few minutes to indicate doneness. Very sturdy, tteok-bokki is delicious sautéed, coated and stir-fried until crispy, served in thick sauces, or dropped into hearty soups.

Blue Apron favorite: Korean Pork & Rice Cakes with Bok Choy

Starch Noodles

Alternative starches make up a significant segment of Asian noodles; most are thin and glassy, and can range in color from pale orange (sweet potato starch) to completely clear (mung bean starch).

Cellophane noodles, aka glass noodles

A skinny, semi-transparent variety, cellophane noodles are made from water and a starch, such as mung bean, potato, or tapioca. Look for them in dried bunches, which need only to be soaked in water to rehydrate, rather than boiled. In Korean cuisine, cellophane noodles feature prominently; a variety made from sweet potato starch becomes a popular stir-fry called jap chae, while an acorn starch-based variety is made into soup, called dotori guksu.

Shirataki

The product of Japanese konjac yams, shirataki noodles are gummy and gelatinous and come packed in liquid in refrigerated bags. Often marketed as a health food due to their low carb and calorie count, shirataki come in a variety of shapes, sometimes mimicking Italian pasta shapes.

For more Asian dishes to cook today — noodles and beyond! — check out our recipe archive.


From Yu Choy to Bok Choy: Asian Vegetables We Love

Asian vegetables stir-fry

When we’re stuck in a cooking rut, one of our favorite things to do is visit a specialty grocery store. Your local Asian market is full of ingredients you can’t find at major American supermarkets. You may even find a flavor or vegetable that’s new to you. These are some of the Asian vegetables we pick up when we hit the market, and how we like to cook with them.

Popular Vegetables in Asian Cuisines

Chinese Broccoli - Gai Lan

Chinese Broccoli (Gai lan)

Chinese broccoli is a dark leafy green vegetable that has a stronger and slightly more bitter flavor than American broccoli. The bitterness balances out the richness of noodle dishes like Pad See Ew and also complements the peanuts and tingly Szechuan peppercorns in our Kung Pao Tofu.

bok choy

Bok Choy

Bok choy is one vegetable with two unique parts. The leafy green tips wilt like spinach in a hot pan, while the thick white stems remain fresh and crunchy. At markets in Chinatown, you’ll see bok choy in a variety of sizes, from tender little bunches that fit in your palm to big beautiful heads that easily become half of your dinner—see this vegetarian bowl for an example of how to highlight this veggie.

sauteed yu choy


Yu Choy
Yu Choy is another variety of Chinese broccoli that has thinner stems than the typical Chinese broccoli but brings the same strong flavor and bitterness to dishes like this noodle stir fry. We sometimes use yu choy tips as a substitute for mellower bok choy.

lotus root

Lotus Root

Lotus roots are the stems of the floating lily-pad-like plants that grow throughout Asia and Australia. All parts of the plant, including the seeds, flower, and leaves are edible. The root, commonly used in stir-fries, is known for its crunchy and somewhat starchy texture. You can easily peel it with a vegetable peeler and just cut off the ends to reveal the unforgettable, flower-like interior.

birds eye chilis

Bird’s Eye Chilis

Cooks in Asia use chilies both for spice and for flavor. Each chili really does have a unique flavor—if you can get past the kick it also delivers. When we want a lot of spice, we slice open the birdseye chilis, but for a milder rendition leave your chilies whole and throw them into coconut curries or stir-fries to keep the flavor but impart way less heat. You can always work up from whole to sliced!

asian vegetables long beans

Chinese Long Beans

They look like green beans and taste like them too, but Chinese long beans aren’t related to green beans at all! They’re actually a type of cowpea, a robust climbing vine. It only takes up to 2 months for them to grow to be 12 to 18 inches long and ready to harvest. In Southeast Asian and Chinese cuisines, you’ll usually find them barely cooked or raw in curries, stir-fries, and salads.

How to Make Fresh Spring Rolls

How to Make fresh spring rolls
Vegetarian spring rolls

Mastering fresh spring rolls is easier than it looks.

These fresh treats are an easy and fun way to eat more vegetables. Assemble them before dinner and keep them moist by covering with a damp paper towel, or, if you want to make the meal interactive, let everyone wrap their own at the table.

Spring Roll Ingredients

It’s not a fresh spring roll unless it’s wrapped in rice paper. Rice paper sheets are made from white rice flour, tapioca flour, salt, and water. They’re sold as thin dry sheets and can be found in most major grocery stores, or online. To use, simply soften in water, stuff with your choice of fillings, and roll up. The rice paper will stick to itself as it dries.

Fresh Spring Roll Filling Ideas

There are infinite ways to stuff a spring roll. Traditional fillings include mint, tofu, shredded chicken, thinly sliced carrots, and cooked cellophane noodles, but the list doesn’t stop there.

We love slice avocado and cucumbers in vegetarian spring rolls, or pan-seared shrimp for a seafood variation. You could also use leftover chicken. Just shred the meat and wrap it up along with fresh lettuce for a little crunch.

How to Roll Spring Rolls

Rolling fresh spring rolls is easy! Start with your dried rice paper. Fill a shallow bowl or dish with warm water. Working one at a time, completely submerge each rice paper wrapper in the water for 30 to 40 seconds, or until soft and pliable. Transfer the moistened wrapper to a clean, dry work surface. Place a few pieces of carrot and cucumber, a few slices of avocado, a small handful of noodles and a few lettuce, cilantro and basil leaves in the middle of the moistened wrapper. Fold the bottom half of the wrapper over the filling, pressing down to create a seal, then fold the sides of the wrapper towards the center, tucking in the filling. Gently roll up the wrapper (just like a burrito). Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Tips for Making Spring Rolls

  1. Use water. Fill a shallow bowl or dish with warm water. Before filling, completely submerge each rice paper wrapper in the water for 30 to 40 seconds, or until soft and pliable.
  2. Go one at a time. Once you’ve soaked your wrapper, it’s both pliable and fragile. That means, you’ll want to work fast. Fill and roll a single summer roll, then set it aside before moving onto the second, third, and so on.
  3. Don’t overfill. The less you stuff the wrappers, the easier each portion will be to roll. If you’re having trouble, try removing up about a quarter of the planned filling before you roll, even if that looks surprisingly spare.
  4. Keep a kitchen towel on hand. We found it useful to dry off our work surface in between each roll, since dipping the wraps in water will leave you with a slippery workspace.
  5. Be a one-man or one-woman assembly line. Make like a robot to keep things precise. Here’s your task: on your moistened wrapper, place a few pieces of carrot and cucumber, a few slices of avocado, a small handful of noodles and a few lettuce, cilantro and basil leaves in the middle of the moistened wrapper. Fold the bottom half of the wrapper over the filling, pressing down to create a seal, then fold the sides of the wrapper towards the center, tucking in the filling.

Fresh Spring Roll Recipes

Get started with these two easy recipes

Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Shrimp Summer Rolls  with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Watch the video to see how it’s done:

Blue Apron x Chef Roy Yamaguchi

Chef Roy Yamaguchi is known as an innovator of Hawaii-inspired cuisine. Now this award-winning chef is bringing his signature mix of classic preparation and Asian culinary traditions to Blue Apron with a series of limited-time recipes. These meals are guaranteed to help you master new techniques. After you’ve polished up your kitchen skills, enjoy a bold flavorful dinner with a wine pairing hand-selected by our team of chefs and sommeliers. See the menu below. 

Limited-time Recipes from Chef Roy Yamaguchi

Soy-Ginger Marinated Shrimp with Crispy Garlic & Lemongrass Rice

Learn how to make your own crispy garlic. It’s the perfect final touch that will make any rice dish feel restaurant-worthy. 

Seared Steaks & Sesame Mashed Potatoes with Charred Shishito Agrodolce & Bok Choy

Try Chef Yamaguchi’s spin on a classic Italian agrodolce. This sweet and tart sauce is the perfect compliment to charred shishito peppers. 

scallops and burre blanc

Sweet & Sour Chicken with Tomato Gastrique & Ramen Noodles

A gastrique is a classic French sauce. Master this essential culinary technique at home with guidance from Chef Roy Yamaguchi.

Togarashi Scallops with Beurre Blanc, Soy Mustard & Sushi Rice

Learn how to make a classic French butter sauce at home. Chef Yamaguchi pairs this beurre blanc with a soy mustard sauce to perfectly fuse French technique and Japanese flavor in one dish.

Charred Gochujang Pork Chops with Sour Cherry Soy Sauce & Ginger-Honey Carrots

These carrots are glazed with honey, butter, and ginger. Glazing is a classic technique, and the combination of ginger and soy sauce brings in the Asian influence. 

Complete the Meal

Blue Apron’s chefs and sommeliers hand-selected the perfect wine pairings to let these recipes shine. Our Umami wine bundle includes bottles to complement both the delicate aromatics and powerful savory flavors in these recipes.

Try Bold Flavors and Classic Techniques

Chef Roy Yamaguchi developed his signature style by fusing classic French techniques with the Asian flavors he grew up eating. During his career, he’s shared that vision widely as the Chef and founder of over 30 restaurants. Chef Yamaguchi was also one of the pioneering chefs and co-founders of Hawaii regional cuisine, a movement that celebrates the unique regional ingredients and fusion of cultures that make Hawaii a culinary destination.  

Chef Yamaguchi’s Blue Apron recipes celebrate all of these influences. Cook along at home and you’ll learn to make traditional sauces that you can use again and again, all while enjoying delicious meals featuring Asian-inspired flavors.

All About Shichimi Togarashi

shichimi togarashi spice blend

Togarashi is one of those spices that the Blue Apron chefs turn to time and time again. It’s the not-so-secret-ingredient that makes recipes like our Togarashi Popcorn Chicken and Vegetable Fried Rice with Togarashi Peanuts into unforgettable dinners. If this beloved Japanese spice blend isn’t a staple in your pantry yet, keep reading. We’ll show you how to cook with togarashi, and why you should love it. 

What is togarashi?

Togarashi is the Japanese word for Capsicum, which is a broad term defining all chili pepper-bearing plants. When we talk about togarashi in cooking, we’re most often referring to a spice blend made up of seven ingredients, including dried, pulverized red peppers. It can also be referred to as shichimi togarashi, or nanairo togarashi.

As with many spice blends, the exact recipe for togarashi can vary. No two brands or cooks will use the exact same ingredients. A typical togarashi spice blend includes:

  • coarsely ground red chili pepper
  • orange or yuzu peel 
  • ginger
  • nori
  • sesame seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • poppy seeds

These ingredients come together to form a wonderfully complex spice blend. Although it has some heat, it’s not just about making meals spicy. This blend brings a subtle smokiness and citrusy zing to the table, along with mild heat. In addition to the delicious flavor, the seeds in a togarashi spice blend create a delightfully crunchy texture that can be a welcome addition to soft foods like noodles or rice. 

How to cook with togarashi 

You’ll often see togarashi used as a condiment. You can sprinkle it over any finished dish to add a touch of heat, citrus, and crunch. This flavorful spice pairs well with light meats, like chicken or fish, grains, and noodles. For a real treat, try stirring a spoonful into mayonnaise to make a delicious topping for proteins or a decadent dip for french fries.  

Recipes with togarashi 

Togarashi Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Chili Cabbage Slaw

togarashi popcorn chicken

Crispy Fish Katsu with Creamy Potato Salad & Ponzu Mayo

togarashi fish

Vegetable Fried Rice with Togarashi Peanuts

togarashi rice

Try this at home! Blue Apron’s togarashi spice blend would be a delicious addition to your pantry.

A Chicken Potsticker Recipe To Make at Home

chicken potsticker recipe

It’s always a good day to eat dumplings. With a little know-how, and the best chicken potsticker recipe, you’ll never be far from a satisfying dinner. Watch the video below for a complete guide to how we like to mix, wrap, boil, and sear our homemade chicken potstickers.

Get the recipe here

What’s the difference between dumplings and potstickers?

Dumpling is an umbrella term. It can refer to anything from delightfully doughy lumps in chicken and dumpling soup, to delicate gyoza. Potstickers are Chinese and Chinese-American dumpling variety. They get their name from their signature crispy bottom. If you’re not careful during the searing process, they have a tendency to stick to the pot.

Chicken potsticker filling recipe

Our chicken potsticker recipe calls for baby tatsoi. Tatsoi is an Asian green that’s very closely related to bok choi. If you’re unable to find tatsoi, baby bok choi would be just as delicious.

The filling gets its satisfying flavor from a mixture of ginger, garlic, scallions, sesame oil and soy sauce. After you’ve mastered working with chicken, this seasoning would also work well with ground pork, or a mixture of ground chicken and shrimp.

How to fold dumplings and potstickers

For the easiest way to seal a potsticker, watch Chef Matt Wadiak’s technique in the video above. This simple approach is great if you’re working with kids, if you’ve never made a potsticker before, or if you’re in just in a big rush to eat.

Chef Wadiak simply wets one half of each wrapper, folds them over, and seals the edge with a fork.

how to make chicken potstickers

For a slightly more advanced technique try pleating the edges, like in this photo below. To do this, just pinch the dumpling wrapper between your thumb and forefinger. With your opposite hand, make a small fold, and pinch to seal.

how to fold dumplings

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Essential Ingredients of Japanese Cuisine

Japanese Ingredients Blue Apron

Japanese cuisine is wholly unique, involving food customs and cooking processes that may be unfamiliar. Some dishes can get quite complex, requiring a master chef’s artful hand (sushi is just one example)—and yet some of the best Japanese meals are completely simple. Anyone can cook Japanese food, but it’s important to first gain a basic understanding of the essential ingredients.

There are various ingredients that make up and complement the Japanese diet, which primarily consists of rice, soy, fresh fish and seasonal vegetables. Cooking methods are delicate and flavorings subtle, which mean Japanese chefs rely on a handful of important ingredients for savory depth, or umami. Here are 21 Japanese ingredients to start with—and a few ideas for cooking with them.

A Guide to Japanese Ingredients

Bonito Flakes

Bonito is a kind of tuna, which in this preparation, has been smoked, dried, fermented and shaved into delicate flakes. It’s used to add umami to noodle broth, soups, stews, sauces and as a topping on the classic comfort-food, okonomiyaki.

Daikon

A radish the size of your head? Yes, this white variety grows quite large and is prepared by simmering, pickling or grating and served with oily or fried foods to cut the fat. The taste and texture differs depending on the part of the radish. The sweet and hard section below the leaves is best eaten fresh or grated, while the sweet and soft middle part is good braised in stews and soups. The tangy tip may be grated onto grilled fish or meat.

Dashi

This fish-based stock (a mix of bonito and kombu) is the backbone for pretty much any simmered dish, including miso soup and ramen broth.

Dried shiitake mushrooms

Dried Shiitakes, a Japanese ingredient

The intense meaty flavor from this all-vegetarian ingredient enhances the savory flavor of soups or any dish that needs umami. The mushrooms need to be soaked at room temperature for 30 minutes before using, so give yourself a little extra prep time. Try switching out the fresh mushrooms for dried ones in this miso and shiitake ramen and see how it affects the flavor.

Kombu

Kombu

Used as a flavor enhancer, this sea kelp is combined with bonito to make dashi stock. It also appears in many other ingredients, including monosodium glutamate (MSG). Kombu is salty and subtly sweet, again, serving to create that umami effect.

Mirin

This rice wine, made from fermented rice and shochu alcohol, adds a mild sweetness and aroma to dishes. It’s especially good in seafood dishes but can also be used to add a nice luster to sauces (it’s a key ingredient in teriyaki). It’s partly why miso-glazed eggplant looks so mouth-wateringly good.

Miso

Miso


Used as a base in soups, marinades and condiments, this fermented soybean paste comes in a wide variety of colors (from light to dark) and flavors (from salty to sweet). White miso paste’s mildly earthy and sweet flavor pairs well with flank steak in this beef ramen.

Natto

These fermented soy beans are sticky in texture with a strong, unique flavor — definitely an acquired taste. Natto is popular for breakfast mixed with a bit of dashi and mustard and eaten with steamed rice. It’s also sometimes used in sushi rolls or as a topping for noodles.

Panko

Panko, Japanese ingredient similar to breadcrumbs

Essentially Japanese breadcrumbs, these are used to coat foods for frying, like in tempura or tonkatsu dishes. Panko crumbs are lighter and coarser than other varieties, and get extra crispy.

Rice

Short Grain Rice


The staple food in a Japanese meal, short-grain rice is stickier than jasmine rice and is always served in a separate bowl, often topped with seasoned seaweed (nori). And though most people equate “sushi” with “raw fish,” the word itself actually refers to the seasoned rice used to make it. Rice vinegar is mixed with salt and sugar to make sushi vinegar, which is used to flavor the rice. Try this vegetarian maki roll that’s filled with crisp cucumber and creamy avocado.

Rice vinegar

Rice Wine Vinegar

Used in dressings, pickles, marinades, sushi rice and anything else that calls for mild, slightly sweet acidity.

Sansho powder

This seasoning pepper is made from the ground berries of the prickly ash tree. Rather than spicy, the flavor is tangy and lemony. Use it to heat up ramen or other noodle soups.

Seaweed

Nori

Nori seaweed is commonly used as a wrap for sushi and onigiri rice balls. It is also used as a garnish in noodle dishes and soups.

Sesame seeds

Sesame Seeds

These tiny seeds give dishes a nutty, delicate crunch, as in this ginger-soy glazed salmon where they contribute texture and contrast to the tangy sauce.

Soba noodles

Soba, a Japanese noodle ingredient

Made with buckwheat flour, these thin spaghetti-like noodles are prepared in both hot and cold dishes. The most basic soba dish is mori soba in which cold soba noodles are eaten with a soya dipping sauce.

Soybeans

Soybeans are one of the central ingredients of Japanese cuisine, and one of the most versatile. They constitute the basis of many distinct Japanese flavors, such as soy sauce, miso and tofu, and are processed into countless other culinary products. Served in their shells, they’re known as edamame.

Soy Sauce

Soy Sauce

Made by fermenting soybeans, salt and wheat, this dark translucent liquid, also known as soya, imparts saltiness and is also a chief ingredient for umami.

Tofu

In a process much like making cheese, pressing soybean curds and soymilk into blocks creates tofu, which can then be used fresh, boiled or fried—an essential vegetarian protein.

Udon noodles

Udon noodles

These thick, chewy wheat noodles are most often found steeped in hot broth seasoned with soy, dashi and mirin. Our udon noodle soup features Chinese broccoli and seared tempeh.

Wasabi

Also known as Japanese horseradish, this root vegetable is most famous in its green paste form as a condiment for sashimi and sushi. However, wasabi is also eaten with other Japanese dishes, such as soba. Its strong, hot flavor adds zest to otherwise mild foods but dissipates within seconds, leaving no burning sensation in the mouth. While wasabi paste and powder are widely available in supermarkets, most of these products contain very little real wasabi, or none at all. Cultivation of real wasabi is expensive and difficult to come by.

Once you’ve stocked up on the ingredients, try out some of our favorite Japanese-inspired recipes.

Chef Amanda Freitag’s Favorite Spices That Every Cook Should Try

Life’s too short to eat dull food. When Amanda Freitag is cooking, seasoning is key. These are some of the ingredients she makes sure to always keep on hand, and her favorite ways to use them. Here’s Amanda:

Amanda Freitag's favorite spices
  • Za’atar:  This spice blend made up of oregano, thyme, sumac and sesame seeds has risen in popularity in the US in recent years. I was lucky enough to be introduced to these flavors decades ago from a chef mentor. I am obsessed with the flavor profile and the versatility of za’atar. It is so fragrant and bright, and the sumac adds a tangy citrus quality. It’s used widely in Middle Eastern cuisine, I got to experience the many applications of it when I was in Israel and Jordan.  Za’atar can be baked into flatbreads, sprinkled on labneh, or used as a seasoning for poultry, meats and vegetables. At this time of year, try sprinkling some on your summer tomato salad for an extra boost of flavor.
  • Cinnamon: Everyone knows and loves cinnamon for its warm, aromatic flavor in baked goods, but I love using it in savory foods as well. Cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka, and there are many different varieties. Cinnamon is essential in spice blends that flavor dishes in the Middle East, India, Mexico and Africa. It plays well with other spices, especially cumin, coriander and chili. Get adventurous and add cinnamon to your next lamb or beef stew, then create your own signature spice blend!
  • Cumin: Cumin is a seed that can be used whole or ground. I think everyone should stock cumin in their cabinets; it’s earthy, warm and adds depth and fullness to any dish. Cumin is found in spice blends throughout the world; adobos, sofrito, curry powder, baharat and more. You may recognize it from Mexican-influenced dishes as the flavoring in taco seasoning. The seeds can be used whole for soups, curries, chili, pickles and braises. Lamb and cumin are a fantastic, bold flavor combination along with eggplant and lentils.
  • Tellicherry Peppercorns: These are the best of the crop when it comes to black pepper, and I highly recommend treating yourself! Get these peppercorns and a pepper mill in your pantry as soon as possible! Their pungent, fruity, robust flavor will absolutely change your cooking. You can smell the difference after the first crack of the pepper mill. Your simple seasoning of salt and pepper will become one of the most exciting things in your kitchen if you try Tellicherry peppercorns.
  • Cardamom: This spice is one of my all time favorites! I can honestly say I use it everyday. Its flavor is citrusy, with notes of pine and anise. You can find whole cardamom pods in green and black varieties. It originates from India, but it’s used globally in sweet and savory applications, and in many beverages. My dad always made sugar cookies with a bit of cardamom in them, and it adds a wonderful hint of flavor. I personally add cardamom pods to my coffee beans before brewing a pot; not only is it a delicious flavor, it’s great for digestion as well!
  • Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans: It is almost impossible to describe how much I love this ingredient! There’s nothing more versatile than the chickpea. Hummus, falafel, chana masala, panelle and more; these are all culinary delights made from the humble chickpea. Even the cooking liquid from the chickpea can be extracted and used as a vegan delight; it is called “aquafaba” and can be whipped like meringue. Truly amazing.
  • Anchovies: A very polarizing ingredient! The ones I am talking about are the salt-cured, oil-packed anchovies in a can or jar. These are the defining ingredient in a classic Caesar salad, and are also hidden in many delicious dishes. Anchovy haters might be shocked to know just how much they actually love them! Their salty, briny flavor adds depth to pasta puttanesca, braised meats like lamb and beef, and many other sauces. Delicious!

Try out some of Chef Amanda Freitag’s favorite flavors by ordering one of her chef-designed Blue Apron meals.

Hiyashi Chuka Is the Perfect Cold Ramen Dish for Summer

Think it’s too hot for ramen? Think again. There’s a whole world of Japanese noodle preparations, and one cold ramen dish is perfect for summer: hiyashi chuka.

Hiyashi chuka uses the same delicious ramen noodles as a traditional tonkatsu soup, but dresses them up for summer. In this chilled dish the noodles are cooked quickly in boiling water, then tossed in a simple sauce. There’s no hot broth, and no need to turn on the oven. From there the noodles can be a canvas to show off your most beautiful summer produce and favorite proteins. 

Hiyashi chuka dressings are typically made from a combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar. Some recipes incorporate blended spices or seeds for additional crunch and flavor. When it comes to the toppings, it’s time to get creative. Cooked proteins, marinated vegetables, and soft boiled eggs are all great choices. 

Check out the recipes below for inspiration: 

A summery chilled ramen with chicken, corn, and tomatoes 

cold ramen with chicken
This version is topped with sesame seeds and poppy seeds for extra crunch and flavor

Get the recipe.

Cold ramen topped with crunchy cucumbers, a soft boiled egg, and green beans 

Marinated cucumbers add crunch and zip to this dish

Get the recipe.

Bright and light noodles with tomatoes, corn, and arugula 

chilled ramen with arugula
This chilled ramen dish shows off the best of summer produce

Get the recipe.

How Your Ramen Gets Made: Sun Noodle & Blue Apron

How Ramen Noodles Are Made

Sun noodle is the secret ingredient that powers all of New York City’s top ramen restaurants. They manufacture noodles for Momofuku, Ivan Ramen, Chuko, and many many more. 

This family-owned business got its start in Hawaii in 1981, back when ramen in the U.S. was mostly instant. Today, ramen is beloved and revered from coast to coast, and Sun Noodle deserves some of the credit. Over the past 30 years, Sun Noodle has partnered with hundreds of restaurants. They produce over 90,000 servings of noodles per day, and make 300 variations on their original ramen recipe. That way, every chef can work with the noodle that best suits their cooking. Chances are, if you’ve slurped a bowl of noodles in a big city, they came from Sun Noodle

Luckily, high-end ramen restaurants aren’t the only place to try Sun Noodle manufactured noodles. Blue Apron uses Sun Noodle ramen in dishes like Beef Ramen Soup with Choy Sum and Enoki Mushrooms, and Chicken Tsukune Ramen, Spring Vegetable Ramen with Garlic Scapes and Soft-Boiled Eggs. This Crispy Pan-Fried Ramen is one of Blue Apron’s top-rated recipes

Want to learn more about the incredible thought and craftsmanship that goes into every packet of Sun Noodles? Watch the video below to see how Sun Noodle’s East coast facility churns out ramen.

Make Galbi: Marinated Short Ribs That Are Sweet, Smoky, and Craveable

Blue Apron is teaming up with chefs across the country to support Feeding America®. To participate, head over to our social media channels. Share our Facebook post or tag a friend on Instagram, and Blue Apron will donate an additional $5 to Feeding America, up to $50,000. Thanks to chef Yong Shin for sharing Insa’s recipe for Galbi, a classic Korean barbecue preparation of short ribs.

Korean short ribs
Galbi ready for the grill

There’s more than one type of night to be had at Insa. You can feast on mandu in the darkly lit bar, sit around a tabletop grill in the party-filled dining area, or even grab a drink in one of the private karaoke rooms. No matter which option you choose, you can’t go wrong. The food is delicious, and the vibe is inviting and glamorous at the same time. 

It might be difficult to recreate this exact atmosphere at home, but now you can make your own version of Chef Yong Shin’s marinated short ribs, a traditional Korean dish known as galbi. You can typically find galbi pre-fabricated at your local Korean supermarket, but it’s easy to prepare them yourself. If it’s available, grilling is the best way to get some char, and caramelize the sweet marinade. Chef Shin recommends cooking the meat to medium, as short ribs can get chewy when undercooked. 

Galbi (Soy Marinated Short Ribs)

Serves 4-6 People

  • 2 Pounds beef short ribs, sliced ¼” thick
  • 1 ½ Cups water
  • 1 Cup soy sauce
  • 1 Asian pear, peeled, cored & grated (about 1 cup) (see note)*
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Onion, grated (about 1 Cup)
  • 1/4 Cup ginger, peeled & grated
  • 1/4 Cup garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsps kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsps canola oil

1. Combine all ingredients (except the short ribs) in a bowl and whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved. Combine this mixture with the short ribs in a nonreactive container or a ziplock bag. Cover, refrigerate, and leave the ribs to marinate for at least 2 days. If you want to eat them sooner, use a knife to score the meat in a cross hatch pattern. This will help the meat tenderize more quickly.

2. Before cooking, rest the meat at room temperature for at least an hour. Heat a grill to high, or place a heavy bottom skillet over high heat. If using a skillet, coat the bottom with a little oil, just barely enough to cover the surface. Once the oil is smoking, add enough meat to form a single layer without crowding the pan. 

3. Cook the meat until it’s charred on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook another minute or two, to your preferred doneness. 

4. Allow the meat to rest for at least 5 minutes. Slice into bite-sized pieces and serve with rice, lettuce, and kimchi.

*If Asian pear is not available, canned pineapple juice is a fun alternative. Chef Shin’s Mom would use this in marinades for meats, including pork and lamb. The enzymes in pineapple (or kiwi, or papaya) help break down proteins for a tender final product.

“Quick” Kimchi

Yields approximately 2 quarts

  • 1 Large Napa cabbage (at least 3 pounds)
  • 3/4 Cup kosher salt
  • 1 Cup gochugaru (coarse Korean chili flakes)
  • 3 Tbsps ginger, peeled & minced
  • 3 Tbsps garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsps sugar
  • 2 Tbsps salted shrimp (optional, but recommended)
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Bunch scallions, cut into 2” pieces

1. Quarter the napa cabbage, removing any loose outer leaves, and slice horizontally into 2” strips. Cut the bottom root off and discard. 

2. Wash the cabbage in a deep container of water and drain well. In your largest mixing bowl, rub salt into the cabbage and toss until it’s thoroughly coated. Allow it to sit for 3 hours, tossing every hour. A lot of water will be expelled from the cabbage. 

3. Rinse the cabbage and drain thoroughly. Taste the cabbage. It should be well seasoned, meaning it will taste good on its own. 

4. Place the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl with the wilted cabbage. Mix everything together until the cabbage is thoroughly coated with seasoning. Taste the kimchi and adjust it to your liking. Want more funk? Add more fish sauce. Want it a little sweeter? Try more sugar. 

5. Eat immediately or keep in the fridge. To store, place the kimchi in a large nonreactive container, like a glass bowl with a lid, or a plastic storage container, and press down to remove any air between the leaves. This kimchi is best eaten within 2 weeks.

Chicken and Waffles with a Thai Twist

When you tell a chef to stay inside, things are bound to get a little wild in the kitchen. This week Chef Alex Saggiomo turned dinner up a notch with Thai-inspired chicken & waffles.

chicken and waffles
Chicken and waffles with a twist

I’m a big fan of chicken & waffles, but making them at home always seemed a little too indulgent.

Until now. 

When I started quarantining, I threw out the rulebook. Cooking these days is about what makes you feel good. For some that might be a salad, but for me…it’s chicken & waffles. I wanted to do something a little different, and after opening the fridge for inspiration, it hit me (literally, a jar of sambaal fell on my foot), do a Thai version!

Things started to come together quickly with ingredients that I already had on hand: I made a marinade for the chicken out of fish sauce, garlic, ginger, chili powder, brown sugar, and cilantro.  I used boneless/skinless thighs for their quick cooking time and ability to stay juicy. The flavors in the marinade are so intense that it only needs to marinate for an hour. A quick 50/50 all-purpose flour and cornstarch breading meant that I’d have super crispy chicken with hardly any effort. 

Now for the waffles: I decided to use coconut milk in place of traditional dairy, and added some grated ginger and lime zest to ramp up the flavor. A last minute splash of sambaal and an addition of toasted coconut flakes (leftover from a baking project) gave the batter the jolt it needed. 

While the waffles cooked, I knew I’d need a sauce to bring it all together. Using the flavor profiles of a traditional satay, I blended peanut butter with lime juice, a splash of fish sauce, coconut milk, a little more sambaal, and some maple syrup. I don’t know what to call it, but it was delicious. To top it all off, a quick compound butter infused with cilantro, mint, and basil gave the dish a much needed hit of brightness.

While they weren’t traditional by any stretch, they did exactly what they were intended to: keep a smile on my face and transport me to somewhere far away from my apartment…at least until it was time to do the dishes.

Recipe: Thai-Style Chicken & Waffles

serves 2-4

For the chicken:

  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch

For the waffles:

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon sambaal oelek
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ¾ cup toasted coconut flakes (optional)

For the sweet and spicy peanut sauce:

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons sambaal
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

For the herb compound butter:

  • 1/4 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1. In a bowl, mix the garlic, ginger, cilantro, fish sauce, brown sugar and chili powder; rub over the chicken and let stand for up to 1 hour.

2. While the chicken marinades, prepare your waffle batter. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside. In another medium bowl add the eggs, coconut milk, sambaal, and melted butter. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be slightly lumpy). Stir in coconut flakes.

3. To make the peanut sauce, in a blender, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

chicken and waffles peanut sauce
Finished peanut sauce

4. On a large plate, combine the flour and cornstarch; season with salt and pepper. Working one at a time, pat any excess marinade off the chicken and transfer to the flour-cornstarch mixture; toss to thoroughly coat. In a large pan, heat a thin layer of oil on medium-high until hot. Once hot enough that a pinch of flour sizzles immediately when added to the pan, add the breaded chicken. Cook 6 to 7 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the cooked chicken to a paper towel-lined plate; immediately season with salt and pepper.

5. While the chicken cooks, pour 1/2 cup of batter onto grids of a preheated, lightly greased waffle maker. Bake according to manufacturer’s directions (mine took about 3 minutes). When done, finished waffles can be kept warm in a 250°F oven. Repeat with remaining batter.

6. While the waffles cook, in a small bowl, combine the butter and minced herbs; season with salt and pepper. Using a fork, mash to combine.

7. Place a waffle (or two—lean in!) on a plate; top with the fried chicken. Drizzle with the peanut sauce and top with the herb butter. Eat until your smile takes up your entire face.

Consider pairing with an adventurous cocktail.