I had always thought of turnips as the boring version of potatoes. A vegetable to be tolerated, but not enjoyed. After reading that Hakurei turnips are the “caviar of the turnip family,” I was thoroughly intrigued. I was able to get my hands on a bunch through our CSA. If you are lucky enough to acquire this tender turnip, usually outside of the realm of the grocery store, then I suggest trying out this preparation inspired by a PBS recipe. The resulting dish is highly complex, slightly sweet, and refreshing.
Most of the recipes that I consulted for Hakurei turnips involved throwing out the majority of the greens. Much of the nutritional power of turnips can be found in their greens: Vitamins K, A, and C, as well as calcium and manganese, to name a few. Keep them.
I didn’t want to take the risk of throwing all of these mysterious greens into the noodles, and instead sautéed them as a side dish… you know, just in case they were terrible. I could make my frugal husband eat them all if they displeased me! The greens were actually great on their own (sautéed with garlic, salt, and a splash of chicken stock), but were also a welcome addition to the main dish.
Hakurei Turnip & Shiitake Soba
Inspired by PBS Kitchen Vignettes
About 3/4 pound of Hakurei turnip (1/2″ chunks or matchsticks)
All Hakurei turnip leaves, sliced into horizontal strips
6-8 medium-sized dried shiitake mushrooms
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 pound of buckwheat soba noodles
1/8 cup sesame oil (we use Kadoya brand)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or mirin)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
Optional: 1/2 pound of small shrimp
Optional: Lao Gan Ma or other chii sauce
Soak shiitake mushrooms in water* for 8 hours or overnight. Remove stems and slice into thin strips.
Mix sauce for noodles: sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and fish sauce.
Bring a pot of water* to a boil and cook soba noodles about 7 minutes.
Empty soba into colander, rinse starch off briefly under cold water, and toss in noodle sauce.
In skillet over medium heat, melt butter and fry garlic until golden.
Add turnip pieces, shiitake mushrooms, and salt. Sauté 1 minute.
Add maple syrup and 2 Tbsp. water.* Mix well to coat. Continue to sauté until water has evaporated, about 7 minutes.
Add turnip greens and sauté until wilted and cooked through, about 2 minutes. Mix with soba.
Optional: Use the now-empty pan, with the oil or butter of your choice, to sauté shrimp. Add to soba.
Optional (suggested by Jimmy): Add Lao Gan Ma or other chili sauce to taste.
*Bonus flavor: save the shiitake-soaking liquid to add into the pan while cooking turnips and mushrooms, as well as to the water for boiling the soba noodles!