Big Fabulous Picnics: Pan-Asian Inspired!

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How does a food blogger host a picnic? In our summer picnic series, Vancouverite Mijune Pak shares her tips and favourite recipe for her family's summer gatherings.

Plate of Squash and Edamame Noodles
Recipe and photography by Mijune Pak

The Location

Mijune heads to the famous Stanley Park, or one of Vancouver’s beaches: Jericho, English Bay, or Spanish Banks. She enjoys the beaches because it’s one of the few places with an incredible view of both the shoreline and mountains.

The Company

Mijune usually has picnics with a small group of friends or her family. Occasionally, she gets together with a large group of foodies — people like her who are deeply involved in the food scene.

The Atmosphere

Picnics with friends or family are a laid back affair. The group brings blankets to the park and spends most of the time lying down and socializing. “We’re mostly into the food aspect rather than the physical activities,” Mijune says.

Can you blame them?

The Feast

Food is definitely the focus of these get-togethers. Before the picnic, Mijune will take the lead and divvy up responsibilities so that everyone doesn’t show up with dessert. 

When it comes to picnics with family, Mijune says the cuisine is more Asian inspired. Vancouver's diversity in Pan-Asian cuisine is a huge inspiration for this foodie.

The served meats can include pork chops, chicken wings and kabobs — although there is a focus on seafood, like barbecued shrimp and fish balls. Meats are typically marinated in a soy-based sauce.

For a perfect summer picnic dish, try Mijune’s squash and edamame noodle recipe below.

Various ingredients on a wooden board to make a squash and edamame soba noodle dish.
Recipe and photography by Mijune Pak

5-Spice Maple Roasted Squash and Edamame with Warm Soba Noodles in Miso-Sesame Soy Sauce Recipe

Ingredients:

For the Squash

  • 4 cups (750g) of kabocha squash that has been peeled and cut into ¾ inch pieces
  • A small squash is 1-1.5 kg; you will use about half the squash for this recipe
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon 5-spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the Dressing

  • 2 cloves raw garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons tahini or Asian sesame paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable stock or water

For the Mushrooms, Edamame and Noodles

  • 1 package of dry soba noodles (4 bundles, 320g)
  • 1 package of frozen and pre-cooked edamame beans, already shelled (454g, about 3 ½ cups)
  • 16 ounces large shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and the caps thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • coarsely ground pepper to taste

For Garnishing

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup thinly sliced green onions

Notes for Success

  • Squash skin is quite thick and tough so use a sharp knife and carefully cut away the skin from the flesh.
  • Whisk together the squash flavourings before adding the squash pieces will help give them an even coating.
  • The dressing and garnishes can be made ahead of time.
  • The mushrooms and edamame can be prepared ahead of time and reheated just before the noodles start cooking.
  • Cook the soba noodles to al dente. The noodles are quite thin so they cook quickly. Check the package directions for the recommended cooking time.
  • Having as much of the other components ready ahead of time makes for a quick and easy last minute assembly. The squash is the most time consuming component to prepare and cook.
  • The recipe makes a large amount, and the leftovers keep well when refrigerated.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Empty the bag of frozen edamame beans into a large colander. This allows the beans to thaw while the excess ice melts and drains away.
  3. While the oven is heating, prepare the squash. Use a large chef’s knife to split the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and scrape off as much of the fibrous stringy bits as you can; a melon baller works well for this.
  4. Cut one of the squash halves in half again, so that you have two quarters of squash. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut away the peel from the two squash quarters, and then cut the squash into pieces that are approximately ¾” in size. You should have approximately 4 cups of squash. Reserve the other squash half for another use.
  5. In a mixing bowl that is large enough to hold all of the ingredients for this recipe, whisk together the 3 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, ¾ teaspoon of 5-spice powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Add the squash pieces and stir them until they’re evenly coated.
  6. Roast the squash pieces in a baking dish or greased baking sheet until they’re fork-tender, about 35 minutes. Stir the squash after 15 minutes of baking, then again after 30 minutes of baking. Check for doneness at the 30 minute mark.
  7. While the squash is baking, prepare the rest of the components.
  8. Add all of the dressing ingredients to a blender. Start the blender on low variable speed and slowly increase to high. Blend on high speed for 10-20 seconds. The dressing should be completely smooth, and the texture should be thick but still pour easily. Add another tablespoon of vegetable stock or water if it is still too thick.
  9. Pour the dressing into the mixing bowl that was used for the squash and set aside.
  10. Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling.
  11. While the water is coming up to the boil, heat a large frying pan over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds until they are golden brown. Keep moving them in the pan so that they do not burn. Remove the sesame seeds from the pan and set them aside.
  12. Lightly toast the pine nuts in the frying pan, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove the nuts from the pan when they’re golden brown and set them aside.
  13. Increase the frying pan’s heat to medium high. Add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and cook the sliced mushrooms for several minutes. Season with the ¼ teaspoon of salt and some ground pepper.
  14. When the mushrooms are done and most of the mushroom juices have cooked off, add the thawed edamame beans and stir to heat them through. Remove the pan from the heat.
  15. When the pot of water is boiling, cook the soba noodles to al dente doneness. Check the packaging for the recommended cooking time and test a noodle for doneness a minute before the end of the recommended cooking time, then test again every 30 seconds.
  16. When the noodles are done, strain them well in the colander. Add the noodles to the bowl and mix them with the dressing until evenly coated.
  17. Divide the noodles evenly between plates, and top with the mushrooms, edamame, and roasted squash. Garnish each plate with sesame seeds, pine nuts and green onions. Serve immediately.

 

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