Find Savory Satisfaction in Umami Mushroom Noodles with Five Spice Sauce

Of all the five tastes, umami is the most mysterious. Technically speaking, the savory flavor comes from glutamic acid. Less technically speaking, when added to recipes, umami makes a dish taste yummy (which is the actual English translation of the Japanese name).

But while umami is most commonly associated with high-sodium, bottled products — like soy sauce, miso paste, and kimchi — here’s the tastiest secret of all: Mother Nature makes it too. Those magical glutamates are also found in mushrooms, meat, seaweed, and even green tea. So when your taste buds crave a savory oomph, try swapping out the salty options for fresh sources of umami.

To get started, try this Umami Mushroom Noodle dish, complete with Five Spice Sauce. If you want to even more flavor, add in umami-rich shrimp and ground pork or beef for a multiplied umami effect.

Umami Mushroom Noodles with Five Spice Sauce

Serves 2

Active Time: 15 minutes; Total Time: 35 min


1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

4 ounces no-salt-added udon or soba noodles

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

1/4 teaspoon salt-free garlic powder

2 small bunches bok choy, ends removed with leaves washed and separated

Sesame oil

2 cups shimeji mushroom, roots discarded and mushrooms separated


Place the shiitake mushrooms and 3 cups of water into a medium-sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then lower heat, cooking for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring another medium-sized pot of water to boil and add the noodles, cooking according to the package. Drain and rinse with cold water and then divide equal amounts between two bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of sesame oil over each bowl of noodles and use your hands or a fork to mix until combined. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the mushroom broth with the cornstarch, rice vinegar, Chinese five spice, and garlic powder. Mix until there are no clumps and set aside. This is the slurry for your sauce.

Heat a large wok or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the bok choy leaves and 1/4 cup of water, allowing them to quickly steam until the leaves are soft but still vibrant, about 2 minutes. Remove the bok choy from the pan and divide theleaves between the two noodles bowls.

Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the hot pan and then add the shimeji mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Divide the mushrooms between the two noodle bowls.

Finally, separate the shiitake mushrooms from the mushroom broth, reserving the liquid. Add the mushrooms to the hot pan and then, while whisking, and the slurry.

Cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes, adding more warm mushroom broth as needed to get desired sauce texture (runny or thick). Divide sauce evenly between the noodle bowls and serve while warm.

Sodium Content: Shiitake mushrooms: 2mg per mushroom; Bok choy: 9mg per leaf.

All sodium counts based on the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference release 26.

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Jessica Goldman Foung began the blog to capture her adventures in a low-sodium life. She regularly writes about salt-free flavor tips and ingredient swaps. Her first cookbook was Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, and she is currently working on her second, to be released in 2016.

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