Spicy Asian Noodle Soup, A Family Favorite
The fall cold season settled heavily upon the Labianca/McDaniel household. With three sick kids sporting four infected ears among them and two sniffly parents, I decided it was time for some Spicy Asian Noodle Soup.
This soup is a family favorite and is great to clear up sinuses and help break a fever when you’re sick. (Just add extra ginger and chilis to the broth.) It is also just a delicious, warming soup for a cold day.
To make a truly satisfying and health restorative soup, you’ve got to make your own stock first. (To make a quick, yet equally delicious, weeknight soup, skip the step and use a decent store-bought stock). I like to use chicken wings and/or legs for a stock because they have a ton of collagen which can be extracted from the bones, skin, and connective tissue.
To develop a rich broth and get at all that collagen, start by searing the wings on both sides and the legs all over in a very hot dutch oven with a little canola or coconut oil. You’re looking for a nice deep browning and also to develop a thick fond (those tasty burned brown bits) on the bottom of the pan.
While those are browning, prepare your vegetables; you’ll also want to brown once the chicken is done. Then put the chicken back in the pot, add your spices and salt, stock, and water to cover everything. As it comes up to a boil over high heat, scrape around the bottom of the pan to release as much of the fond as possible.
Once at a rolling boil, stir periodically and smash down on the vegetables and chicken to break every up, release all the flavors, and speed up the process of breaking down the chicken’s collagen. Let it go at a pretty hard boil for at least an hour. If you can leave it at a medium boil for another hour or so the liquid should have reduced by about 2/3 and you will have a delicious and healthful stock.
Put a fine strainer over a bowl and use tongs to remove the bones and vegetables, smashing them down into the strainer to extract all the liquid and force some of the vegetables through the mesh to help thicken your soup. Once you’ve pulled out most of the bones and vegetables you can pour the stock over, again pressing down to extract as much liquid and flavor as you can. I often make this in advance and then keep it in the refrigerator for a day or two until I’m going to make the soup.
If you do, you’ll find a fine sediment of potato and carrot solids on the bottom, a ball of gelatin-ized stock floating in a thick, dark brown broth, and a thin white layer of chicken fat on the top (which you can mix back in, use to fry the vegetables for your soup, or discard, depending on your preferences).
With the stock ready to go, the rest of the soup comes together in a flash. The ingredients are pretty much open for interpretation. I almost always use carrots, bok choy and chilis. The rest changes based on what’s around and could include pea pods, broccoli, kale, spinach, asparagus, bell peppers, or zucchini.
This can either be a vegetable and noodle soup, or you can add some sliced chicken breast as well, depending on your preferences.
Thinly slice your ingredients, or cut them into matchsticks, and prepare a wok over very high heat with chicken fat and/or canola oil. Stir fry your ingredients, starting with chicken, then carrots, etc. Work your way down to vegetables that need less time to cook to get soft (like green onions) or which you want to stay crisp (like peapods). This will only take three to five minutes, so make sure to drop your noodles into boiling water at the same time you start cooking.
When you’re done adding things to the wok and everything is mostly cooked, pour in the stock (warmed up if you kept it in the fridge overnight). Then strain the noodles and add them to the soup along with chopped cilantro, bean sprouts and the juice of a lime or two.
For Three Cups of Broth (about 4 servings of soup)
- 5 cups chicken stock
- Approximately 2 cups water (enough to submerge everything completely)
- 2 ½ pounds chicken (must be skin on, wings are best, legs also work well)
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 medium potato
- 1 medium onion
- 1-5 chili peppers, to taste (can use fresh or dried)
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon cardamom
- 2 star anise
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 1-3 teaspoons salt (depending on how salty stock is, you may need to add more or less)
Spicy Noodle Soup Ingredients
Some combination of:
- ½ pound thinly sliced chicken breast
- 2 medium carrots, cut into ¼ inch medallions
- 2-3 baby bok choy cut into ½ inch strips
- 1-3 jalapenos cut into ¼ inch slices (seeds removed or left in if you like it hot)
- Handful of peapods, washed & trimmed
- Asparagus, sliced on the bias into 3/4 inch pieces
- Zuccini, cut in half lengthwise then sliced into ¼ inch slices
- Kale, washed & torn into 1 inch pieces
- Noodles (curly egg noodles, rice vermicelli, soba, or udon work great)
- 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- Juice of 1-2 limes
- Bean sprouts (optional)