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.