Noodle Soup - Asian (Comfort)
Rice noodles in broth.
What could be more comforting than that?
Well, maybe rice noodles in broth with vegetables and a little meat or tofu!
And just think: a billion people agree.
Simple to make, to boot. Infinitely variable. Delicious. Great on a cold winter day. Great on a hot summer day. Great any day. How do I make it?
Easy to find. We can find them in the "Oriental Foods" section of the supermarket. or if we can't find them there, then there is sure to be an Asian food store somewhere in the vicinity. All we have to do is seek it out.
A million styles. Thick and wide. Thin. Medium. Round and soft, rather than dried. Flat and wide, and dried. And so on. A million different types, all cleverly designed to keep you interested from one day to the next.
We only need one, like these.
Beef broth. Chicken broth. Vegetable broth. They all work.
So does, part-beef-part-vegetable or part-chicken-part-vegetable or part-beef-part-chicken. And so on. They are all good, and we can vary them from occasion to occasion to keep things interesting.
Add soy sauce. Add smashed garlic. Add red pepper flakes or Cajun hot sauce -- as much of this last one as you can take. Adding kimchi is a good way also to get the hot-spicy tang which adds so much to this dish. Watch the broth steam, begging for the next ingredient to be added.
Whatever is handy.
Celery cut into thin sticks is good. Scallions, for sure. Carrots, also cut into thin strips. Broccoli. Green beans. Peas. Whatever is handy. This time we had some zucchini as well.
Mushrooms -- did I mention mushrooms? We didn't have any handy on this occasion, but mushrooms of just about any type are a wonderful addition to our broth. Actually, you can buy dried mushrooms and keep them around forever, for occasions like this -- put the in the broth and you may not be able to tell they were ever dried.
Throw all into the broth and continue to simmer. Simmer away.
This is leftover pork tenderloin. But any other leftover meat will do.
Pieces leftover after a dinner of roast chicken -- those are a particularly nice addition. So are those last couple of pieces of grilled flank steak that people were just too stuffed to eat last night.
Another useful addition is tofu, firm-kin preferably because that is almost like meat.
Slice the meat into soup-sized pieces. Toss into pot.
Continue to simmer. Simmer away.
Throw in some kimchi if you have any.
See An Introduction to Kimchi for further information.
Kimchi just goes with rice noodles, in soup, out of soup, fried (the noodles, not the kimchi), baked (baked?) -- any way you can think of cooking rice noodles.
This was a mistake
We threw the rice noodles into the broth in order to cook them.
They don't take long, about eight minutes -- depending on the type. Less if they are not the dried noodles, but instead are the soft round ones.
But in fact, the noodles should be cooked separately and combined with the broth at the end. The problem with cooking them in the broth -- we found out -- is that they absorb too much of the broth. Also the contrast between the delicious ricey-dicey taste of the noodles and the salty flavorful broth-with-vegetables gets lost, as the noodles taste just like the broth.
Here is what this all looks like just before ladling the soup out into individual bowls and serving this delicious meal.
Of course with a noodle soup like this you need a pair of tongs as well as a ladle, in order to extract the luscious noodles and distribute them evenly among the bowls that are rapping on the table.
Big in the bowl
"Multiplicity" is perhaps the best word to keep in mind when contemplating the Rice Noodle. The humble rice noodle, which has no reason to be humble since it such a dominant force in the cuisine of such a large part of the word. "Multiplicity" has overtones of "an awful lot," and this is certainly true of rice noodles, but the true meaning of the word is "a variety of forms" -- and in that meaning rice noodles really shine. You can get them fresh (the best way), frozen, or dried -- that's a lot of variety right there -- but it is in the various shapes and thicknesses that they really display their multiplicity. I personally prefer the thicker round types to the flatter types, though not by much, and the flatter types to the thinner types, though again not by much. I, of course, try different types on different occasions, and I have them, particularly for lunch, as often as I can, especially when in China.
"Intriguing" is another word that should be used, along with "enticing." Just look at a bowl of rice noodles, and it will be difficult to control yourself, particularly when the aroma of a delicious broth arises from the bowl as well as the sight of the noodles. "Comforting" -- there's another word, as we have already noted.
Real Meal. Unlike fancy food mags, where images are hyped and food itself is secondary, all pix shown here are from a real meal, prepared and eaten by me and my friends. No throwing anything away till perfection is achieved. This is the real deal --- a Real Meal.