Gentle Readers, it’s dreary and cold at my house tonight while I’m writing this—just the sort of weather that calls for soup. Because my family has steadily marched from being a crew of picky omnivores to a group of picky herbivores, I’ve been challenging myself to take on new cuisines to diversify dinner and keep myself from being bored.
It started with Bon Appetit (I’m not paid to say so, I got a subscription through my Amazon Prime membership and fell deeply in love). They had an issue on simple Korean food at home, and I had some early success. Then I checked out some books on Chinese cooking at the library. I made a few simple things with great success and decided to take the leap.
Confession time: I’ve always been intimidated by Asian recipes. I’ve either been overwhelmed by the list of ingredients or equipment I don’t have, or by my complete ignorance of the technique required to produce even an imitation of Americanized Chinese restaurant staples. (Real confession: I’m so terrible at making rice I wouldn’t even be posting this if the InstantPot hadn’t come into my life to stand in as a rice cooker.)
Googling the top Chinese cookbooks led me to The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. It is simple, accessible, and the recipes work. But then came the inevitable and necessary trip to the Asian market. Let’s be clear, I love love love grocery stores. I visit them in foreign countries like I’m on a special field trip. But usually I take a friend as a local guide with me so I don’t make a mess of the adventure. Also, did I mention I can’t speak or read Chinese and I’m allergic to shellfish so need to be a little careful about sauces?
More googling led me to The Woks of Life. They have the most amazing guide to Asian markets, complete with direct brand recommendations and PICTURES for the nervous newcomers like me. Best of all, they offer comfort and confidence, very similar to my mission with this blog. Do yourself a favor and go subscribe—it’s like joining a family picnic where everyone is a good cook.
All of this is to say, if you like noodles, and you like soup, give this a try. Look for more adventures in my attempt to learn to cook Chinese recipes (MaPo Tofu and Garlicky Pea Tips anyone?).
Plain Noodle Soup
This soup was inspired by and adapted from Yang Chun Noodle Soup from The Woks of Life. They are teaching me to chill out and use what I have on hand and I am trusting them and doing just that. Since we are feeding non-pork eaters, I substituted ghee for lard with great results. If you don’t have dark soy sauce, consider investing or check for a substitution (the internet offers a few).
Serves 2 as a meal, serves 4 as part of a meal
3 or 4 eggs
3 “bunches” of soba noodles (see the photo for the brand I found, any noodles will do, but soba noodles come wrapped in bunches within the larger package)
1 carton of commercial stock or 4 cups of your homemade stock of choice (I used turkey stock because one other person will eat meat stock on occasion and I needed to get rid of it, I’m aware it is not vegetarian but you can use some of your freshly made veggie stock here instead)
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
2 heads of bok choy, rinsed well and roughly chopped
4 Tablespoons light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons ghee (you can buy it but it’s very easy to make, or sub bacon grease or lard or whatever tasty fat you have)
3 scallions (white and a good part of the green), sliced thin
extra soy sauce or chili sauce for the table
- Boil water in a large enough pot for 4 eggs and cook until jammy. I used the Bon Appetit guide for timing and method. Peel and set aside for now.
- Meanwhile, heat your stock to a gentle boil with the ginger in a small pot. Once boiling, toss in the bok choy and simmer until it’s tender (a few minutes).
- Boil some more water and prepare your noodles (use the lowest cooking time) per package instructions. Drain and give a quick rinse with cold water.
- While things are boiling, mix the soy sauces and the sugar, and divide them between bowls. Measure 1 Tablespoon of ghee into each serving bowl if making two servings, or 1/2 Tablespoon if four.
- Plate up: ladle equal portions of the stock/bok choy mixture (discarding the piece of ginger) into your serving bowls. This will melt your ghee. Add a generous portion of noodles to each bowl. Now slice your eggs in half and place them in your soup bowls. Finally, top each with scallions.
Coming up next, Grilling What You’ve Got.