Cook on a Whim: Quick Asian Noodle Soup

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Quick Asian noodle soup. Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Cook on a Whim.

February is chilly, kind of dreary and sometimes snowy (wishful thinking). It is a month that demands comforting bowls of delicious food — with bonus points if they don’t take hours to prepare. And since nothing comforts quite like noodles, this quick, slurp-worthy soup is one of my go-to meals this time of year.

I cannot claim that this is pho or ramen (real ramen, not the flavor-packet kind we remember from our college days). The defining characteristic of both of those noodle soups is the time, tradition and true artistry that goes into their broths.

It would be an oxymoron to call anything “Quick Pho” or “Quick Ramen,” so the food traditionalist in me simply cannot call it that. However, the flavors I’ve added to this broth are my favorite pho/ramen flavors, and I made it to satisfy a noodle craving. Which it did — big time. And it continues to do so time and time again.

So call it whatever you want; I promise you’ll call it delicious.

When I make this soup, I use whatever noodles I happen to have in my pantry from my last spellbinding trip down the international food aisle. Make it with any noodle you prefer. Rice noodles would be more pho-like. I am wild about slippery, satisfying mung bean or cellophane noodles (sometimes called glass noodles), which would also be very good here, but you could even use spaghetti. Just cook your noodle of choice separately, according to the instructions on the package.

If you have any leftover meat in your fridge, feel free to thinly slice it and add it to your bowl before pouring the hot broth over. A soft-boiled egg would be really good as a garnish, too.

Quick Asian Noodle Soup

Ingredients

8 to 9 ounces noodles (I used Hakubaku Organic Ramen, 9.5-ounce package, for the soup in the photo) or whichever noodles you prefer

2 quarts chicken, beef or vegetable stock/broth (or a combination)

4 tablespoons fish sauce

4 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1-inch piece of ginger, cut into large chunks, and another ½-inch piece, peeled and very finely julienned for serving

4 green onions, dark green parts reserved for stock, light green parts finely sliced on the diagonal for serving

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved for stock, caps thinly sliced

1 red Fresno chili pepper, seeds removed and very finely sliced (optional)

3 garlic cloves, smashed

3 whole star anise

Small bunch of basil leaves, Thai basil if you can find it, leaves removed and thinly sliced for serving, stalks reserved for broth

Small bunch of cilantro, leaves removed for serving, stalks reserved for broth

1 cup mung bean sprouts for serving, 1/4 cup per serving

Instructions

In saucepan, combine stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, dark green parts of green onions, shiitake stems, star anise pods and basil and cilantro stalks. Bring to boil, then lower to simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, strain stock and discard simmered ingredients. Return stock to pan and add sliced shiitake mushroom caps. Simmer this gently while you cook the noodles.

Place a separate pot of water on to boil for the noodles, and cook according to package instructions.

Strain noodles and divide evenly between four bowls. Ladle stock over noodles and garnish each bowl with cooked shiitakes, bean sprouts, basil and cilantro leaves, pepper slices, ginger slices and green onions. A squeeze of lime would be nice, too.

Enjoy!

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