Here's a meal in a bowl that's as versatile as it is easy: thin slices of flavorful marinated flank steak tossed with udon noodles, broccoli florets and slivers of carrot. A savory broth with notes of mint, lime and ginger completes this satisfying meal that combines meat, vegetable and starch all in one.
The beauty of noodle bowls is that you can use just about any ingredient to customize the recipe to feature your family's favorites. Kids don't like broccoli? Substitute sugar snap peas or green beans. Likewise, chicken, pork or shrimp can stand in for the beef. And you can vary the broth by adding lemongrass or mirin for a change of pace.
Making meat the highlight rather than the main ingredient of the meal lets you enjoy its flavor while eating less of it overall, which is healthier for you and the planet. Whether you choose organic or not, grass-fed meat is more likely to be antibiotic- and hormone-free. The meat is leaner, with more omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (the "good fats") that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and strengthen the immune system.
Cut the flank steak in half lengthwise so that you have 2 pieces, each about 2-1/2 to 3 inches wide. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, 2 teaspoons of the ginger, half of the garlic and the soy sauce, stirring to make a paste. Rub the paste on both sides of the steak pieces. Place the meat in a covered container (or on a plate, covered with foil or plastic wrap) and marinate at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. If you wish to marinate longer, refrigerate the meat overnight.
Cut the broccoli into florets, reserving the stalks for another use. If you wish to use the stalks, peel them and then cut on a slight diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Bring a large pot of water (4 quarts) to a boil over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the broccoli and carrots to the pot and cook until crisp-tender, 4 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve the vegetable cooking water. (This step can be done up to 2 hours in advance).
Preheat a barbecue on medium-high heat. If outdoor grilling isn’t practical, use a cast iron pan on the stovetop. Rub the steaks with some of the olive oil and grill the meat while the noodles are cooking, turning once. For medium-rare, cook 8 to 12 minutes total. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
Reheat the pot of water used to cook the vegetables over high heat until boiling. Add the udon noodles and cook over medium to medium-high heat until they are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli and carrots and cook an additional minute, until the vegetables are heated through. Drain the mixture in a colander and then divide among 4 large bowls.
Meanwhile, place the chicken stock in a small pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the remaining ginger and garlic, the sesame oil, fish sauce and lime juice and simmer until the mixture is very hot. Pour some of the broth into each bowl of noodles.
Slice the steaks thinly across the grain and divide the slices of meat among the bowls. Sprinkle each serving with some of the mint, if using, and serve hot.