Tag Archives: Asian

Hearty Asian-style Chicken Soup

This week’s challenge was to make a hearty-style soup, preferably with chicken in it. The twist was that it had to be a kind of soup I don’t normally make, since I make soup just about every week. My husband mentioned pho, as an example, which put me in mind of a hearty, Asian-style soup. That would be change of pace for us, since I don’t usually cook Asian-style dishes.


The result was an Asian-inspired soup featuring slivers of chicken, rice noodles and bok choy. This dish was a hit with everyone. My husband and I both drained our bowls, and even my toddler enjoyed the noodles. (He is not into soups these days.)

While this was a hearty soup, what really made it was the broth, which was packed with flavor. I didn’t have time to make chicken stock from scratch, as I would normally do, so I took some shortcuts. I think the result was just as delicious, and I may make this “shortcut” broth more often than not in the future. I began with Penzey’s chicken stock base, but you could also use store-bought chicken broth. To that I added vegetables, garlic, bay leaf, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. My house smelled terrific while it was simmering! But what really kicked up the flavor was the wine, soy sauce and tomato that went into the broth, which contributed an umami quotient. If you aren’t familiar with the term, umami is the taste of savoriness, found in such foods as tomatoes, soy sauce and Parmesan cheese. That’s why adding a little soy sauce or Parmesan can wake up the flavor of a dish.

The broth imparted its flavor to everything that went into it. Pho is usually made with beef, but we don’t eat beef at home, so I substituted thin slivers of chicken instead. I added rice noodles and bok choy to make the soup more hearty. One small, minced jalapeno contributed a background sensation of heat without being overwhelmingly spicy. A little lime squeezed over the top provided brightness.

This was a terrific soup. I should acknowledge Mark Bittman’s recipe for Hanoi Noodle Soup (in How to Cook Everything, Revised Edition) as the inspiration for the recipe, but I did make a lot of changes to it. I would definitely make this soup again, and the recipe is fast and easy enough to prepare on a weeknight.

For this weekend’s challenge, we are celebrating  March Madness with chicken wings — not something I cook very often. Come back next week for the results.

Hearty Asian-style Chicken Soup

Yields: 4 servings
Time: 1 hour or more, depending on how long you simmer the broth

To make the broth:

Begin with 8 cups water + 1½ teaspoons Penzey’s chicken soup base or 8 cups store-bought chicken broth in a large pot. Add:

  • 1 carrot, unpeeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk with leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, unpeeled, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 canned tomato
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1-2 teaspoons five spice powder

Bring to a low boil. Lower the heat, partially cover and let simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

In the meantime, soak 1 pound rice noodles in hot water to cover until softened, 15-30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Strain the broth and return to the pot, or use a skimmer to scoop out the solids. Raise the heat a little to bring it to a steady bubble. Add:

  • the soaked rice noodles
  • ½ pound boneless chicken, cut into thin slices (You could substitute thinly sliced beef or pork, if you like.)
  • 1 medium or 2 small heads bok choy, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, cut into small dice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • A lot of freshly ground black pepper

Cook until the chicken is no longer pink and the cabbage is tender, which should only take a few minutes. Taste and add more soy sauce, if needed. Serve with lime wedges.


Ginger-Scallion Tea

Photographer: Frank C. Müller

Image via Wikipedia

Cold season is upon us. As I type this, I’m looking out my kitchen window at a dreary rain and wet leaves plastered all over the deck. It can’t be long before I’m feeling that characteristic tickle in the back of my throat.

This is one of my favorite natural cold remedies. I always use honey in it, as it seems to act as a throat soother and cough suppressant. I hope you won’t be needing it any time soon, but just in case, go ahead and stock up on the ingredients now. (By the way, you can keep the ginger root in the freezer, where it should last the whole winter.)

Ginger-Scallion Tea

  • 6 to 8 thin slices fresh ginger with peel, about the size of a quarter, smashed lightly with the side of a knife
  • 6 to 8 scallions, white part only
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons raw sugar (such as Demerara), honey or maple syrup, according to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups water

Put the ginger slices and scallions in a small pot (preferably glass or ceramic) and add the sweetener, sea salt and water. Bring to a boil, stir well, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and serve hot.

This recipe comes from A Spoonful of Ginger by Nina Simonds.

A Simple Curry with Coconut Milk

This adaptable curry recipe enables you to make curry with whatever you have on hand — as long as you have the core ingredients of coconut milk, canned tomatoes and curry powder, all of which should be pantry staples. You can even vary it from Indian-style curry to Thai-style just by substituting curry paste for curry powder and adding a little fish sauce at the end.

This recipe takes well to all kinds of vegetables, from eggplant to sweet potatoes. Last night I used kale. I usually make curry with diced boneless chicken, but you could substitute pretty much any meat or seafood as well, or omit it altogether; just alter the cooking time accordingly. Serve with rice or noodles for a full meal.

Curry with Coconut Milk

Yields: 4 servings
Time to make: ~30 minutes

  • 2 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 or more other vegetables as desired, sliced or cubed
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. curry powder or curry paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sm. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. fish or soy sauce (optional for Thai-style curry)
  • rice or noodles to serve
  • various garnishes as desired: fresh basil or mint, cashews or other nuts, diced hard-boiled egg, shredded coconut (optional)

Heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken and vegetables, and brown, stirring frequently. Add the curry paste or powder and garlic, and stir-fry 1 minute. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a bubble. Add the tomatoes and fish or soy sauce, if using. Stir, cover and reduce the heat. Simmer 10 minutes. Garnish as desired. If making an Indian-style curry, I like a selection of hearty garnishes, such as cashews, hard-boiled egg and coconut. For a Thai-style curry, I prefer fresh herbs and perhaps peanuts.

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Roasted Asian-style Chicken with Vegetables

Last night, I made one of our rare Asian-themed meals. I don’t often cook Asian, because I don’t usually have the necessary ingredients on hand, but this simple menu didn’t require many unusual ingredients. Also, it helped me clean out the refrigerator by using up the last of the tahini.

For the entree, I roasted chicken according to this method, but I added some mushroom caps and asparagus, cut into 2-inch lengths, to the roasting pan. I also added whole garlic cloves and shaved ginger. Unfortunately, the chicken took a longer time to cook than I thought, so I had to remove the vegetables halfway through or they would have turned to coal. But roasted vegetables taste good whether they’re piping hot or just warm, so all was not lost. When the chicken was finally done, I poured a mixture of soy sauce and lime juice over it on top of the stove. It didn’t take long for the liquid to reduce to a thick glaze in the hot pan. The whole dish was really simple and delicious.

On the side, I served Sesame Noodles vegetarian-style (which was where I used the tahini). I was able to make them ahead of time since they taste just as good at room temperature. My husband really liked the noodles, and I think they made a hearty accompaniment to the chicken and vegetables.

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Chicken with Soy & Vinegar

I am not feeling too good today so let’s just get to it. I am calling the dish that I made yesterday, before the sleepless night whammy, “Chicken with Soy & Vinegar.” It is a way-simplified version of a chicken adobo, which I made into a meal by adding some vegetables and cashew nuts. Possibly not authentic, but certainly yummy. Here is my recipe.

Chicken with Soy & Vinegar

Yields: 2 servings
Time to make: ~20 minutes

  • 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  • ½ tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 boneless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. spinach
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • ½ cup cashew pieces
  • cooked rice, to serve

Heat the oils in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken and brown, stirring occasionally, 4-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes, stirring. Add the vinegar, soy sauce and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid reduces by about one-quarter and the chicken is cooked through, 8 minutes. Add the spinach, scallions and cashews, and stir until the spinach wilts and everything is well-combined. Serve with rice on the side.

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Sesame Noodles: A Great ‘Use-it-up’ Dish

I have just added Sesame Noodles to my roster of dishes that I turn to when I need to use up leftover vegetables. This light but tasty Asian-influenced pasta dish is perfect for lunch or a supper side. It tastes good hot and freshly made or cold out of the refrigerator. And it readily takes to whatever veggies you can throw at it. To make it heartier, chicken can also be added, but that’s purely optional.

Sesame Noodles

Time to make: ~20 minutes
Yields: 2 servings

  • ¼ cup tahini or substitute 2 tbsp. peanut butter and 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar (regular sugar may be substituted)
  • ½ tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chili-garlic sauce
  • 6 oz. Chinese noodles, soba noodles or linguine
  • Enough vegetables for 2 servings, cut up for stir-frying
  • ¼ lb. boneless chicken, cut thin or pre-cooked chicken (optional)
  • Peanut or canola oil for stir-frying
  • 1-2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • Sliced scallions, cucumber and/or carrot for garnish (optional)
  • Food processor

In a food processor, combine the tahini or peanut butter and sesame seeds, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, rice wine vinegar and chili-garlic sauce. With the food processor running, pour in hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a smooth sauce is formed. Set aside.

Cook the noodles in plenty of hot water until done and drain. Heat a small amount of oil over high in a large skillet or wok. Stir-fry the vegetables and chicken, if using, until cooked. Toss with the cooked noodles and sesame oil. Mix with the sauce. Garnish as desired. Serve immediately or chill and serve cold.

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Variations on a Theme: Egg Drop Soup

Egg drop soup
Image via Wikipedia

To continue the theme of spring dishes, I wanted to discuss Egg Drop Soup. This basic soup goes by many different guises, including the Chinese version that is most familiar and Stracciatella in Italy. Heartier versions with garlic, rice, spinach and even chicken can be found in many other cuisines, such as Greece and France. But in all these variations, the basic principle is the same. Chicken stock, preferably homemade, is brought to a simmer. Then beaten egg is slowly stirred into the stock with a fork off the heat, creating ribbons of scrambled egg in the soup.

Made properly, Egg Drop Soup is delicious and satisfying, and of course it can be dressed up in many different ways. This is a perfect quick dish if you’re on your own for dinner.

Basic Egg Drop Soup

Yields: 1 serving (can be doubled, tripled and so on)
Time to make: ~10 minutes (not counting time to make the stock)

Beat 1 egg lightly. Bring 1 cup chicken stock to a simmer. Remove the stock from the heat. Slowly pour in the egg, stirring the soup constantly in a circular motion with a fork, until the egg has thickened into long ribbons, 2-3 minutes.

Add any additional ingredients or flavorings as desired:

  • Chinese-style: sesame oil, soy sauce, watercress and sliced scallions
  • Italian-style: grated Parmesan
  • French-style: minced garlic simmered in the stock and fresh herbs
  • Greek-style: rice (cook it in the stock before adding the egg), spinach, a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice; also add shredded, cooked chicken for a heartier, diner-style version
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