Food and Drink

These DIY noodle bowls are flavorful and customizable for any number of ingredients

Big, bold flavors come together for easy make-your-own noodle bowls. If available, opt for fresh ramen or soba noodles, but dried ramen or green tea noodles or spaghetti, in a pinch, will do just fine. The fun part is the toppings and letting everyone create their own. Try to offer a variety of colors, textures, and flavors — this is a great way to use up leftovers. Think raw veg as well as roasted and pickled or sautéed, like kimchi cooked in butter until caramelized. For a more substantial meal, add protein, including fried or soft-boiled eggs, crispy tofu or smoked salmon, tuna or leftover roast chicken. A drizzle of sizzling oil just before serving is essential as it brings to life the aromatics of ginger and garlic and green onion. — Kim Sunée

Ginger-garlic sesame noodle bowls

Makes 4 servings

6 to 8 ounces noodles, such as fresh or dried ramen or dried green tea soba noodles, or spaghetti noodles

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, lime juice (or rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar)


1 tablespoon chili crunch, sambal oelek, gochujang paste, or other favorite chili sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger or garlic (optional)

Optional additions: grated zucchini or carrot; pickled vegetables; roasted beets; kimchi fried in butter; arugula or bok choy; snow or snap peas; sliced pineapple or apple or Asian pear; eggs; smoked salmon; roast chicken; crispy tofu

Final garnish:

1 (2-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced or cut into thin strips

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and cut into thirds crosswise and cut into thin strips

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro or basil

3 tablespoons sesame oil (or grapeseed or avocado oil)

Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

• Cook noodles in boiling water or according to package directions, making sure to keep the noodles slightly al dente — not overcooked; drain and toss with a little bit of olive or sesame oil so they don’t stick together. While noodles are cooking, make sauce: Combine in a small bowl tahini, lemon juice, chili crunch or other hot chile paste, and one teaspoon warm water. Stir to combine. Taste and add soy sauce, if needed, and stir in grated ginger or garlic, if desired. Toss cooked noodles with sauce and place in a large serving bowl.

• Prepare optional additions and place in small bowls or plates. Prepare final garnish by trimming and slicing ginger, garlic and green onions into thin strips; top noodles with the final garnish and cilantro leaves. Just before serving, carefully heat sesame oil in a sauce pan until very hot. At the table, drizzle hot oil over top of noodles — the oil should sizzle as it releases the aromas of ginger and garlic and green onion. Garnish, if desired, with sesame seeds. Serve noodles in individual bowls and allow everyone to add their own toppings.

Kim Sunée

Kim Sunée is a bestselling author ("Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home," "A Mouthful of Stars," "Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks") and a former magazine food editor. She's based in Anchorage. For more food and travel, visit