Our new favourite thing: a one-bowl meal that’s crazy-good, dead easy, and guaranteed to get you glowing, no matter how cold it is outside. While probably not authentically anything in terms of style, it’s genuinely restorative, with a strong, distinct yang character that warms the heart of winter’s deep yin.
This soup is one of several brilliant permutations suggested by the Japanese Noodle Soup recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. We’ve done this with seared beef tenderloin, sliced into silky pink ribbons, and five-spice duck breast, which lends dark fragrance and depth to the broth. But we like this best as chicken noodle soup. It’s clean, but rich. Comforting, but sophisticated. With something this simple, it’s not just quality of ingredients that’s key – you also have to have a quality approach.
To begin with, if you don’t already, please make your own chicken stock. We do the simplest stock possible: 5 pounds of raw carcasses with 8 quarts of water and 3 tablespoons of fine sea salt. Include 4 necks and 2 or 3 chicken feet if you can find them, they add luscious velvet to the stock. Boil, skim, and reduce to the barest simmer for 4 to 5 hours, longer if you like a stronger stock. What, no onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme? No. Just bones and salt. And just wait for it.
It may seem expedient to cook the noodles and chicken in the broth (and you can, if you’re sick, or having a bad sugar crash), but the elegance and purity of this dish really emerge from a more mindful arrangement of ingredients prepared separately. Individually. If you cook the noodles in the soup, their starch will cloud the broth and make it sticky. Cooking raw meat in the broth is not as detrimental, but searing it will develop better flavour, and a more tender texture.
You get the picture. It’s a bit Zen, the whole process, with meditative insight on Ways of Slicing Green Onion, and a perfectly circular sprinkle of sesame seeds. I’m joking, but not really. Sometimes preparing a dish can be as nourishing as eating it.
Asian-style noodle soup (slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
3 quarts chicken stock
1 head of garlic
a 4-inch piece of ginger
1/3 C tamari (or soy sauce)
1 tbsp. sugar
8 oz. soba noodles
1 lb. chicken scallopini
3 green onions
black sesame seeds
Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Separate the head of garlic into cloves and slice the ginger into thin rounds. Using a mallet or rolling pin (etc.), bruise and somewhat flatten the unpeeled garlic cloves and unpeeled ginger rounds. Add them to the simmering stock with the tamari and sugar, and steep with a lid on for half an hour. Remove the garlic and ginger from the stock with a slotted spoon.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles and rinse them well under cold water.
Slice the onions.
Season the scallopini and sear them 2 minutes on each side, or until just barely cooked through. (The hot soup will finish them off.) Let them rest a minute, then slice against the grain into thin bite-size strips. Add any juice to the broth.
Arrange the noodles in bowls, and add hot broth. Garnish with sliced green onions, cilantro, drops of sesame oil, and sesame seeds.
- turkey scallopini, beef or pork tenderloin, shrimp, tofu
- baby spinach, watercress, tatsoi, mizuna
- udon noodles, rice noodles, ramen noodles
- bean sprouts, toasted nori flakes, kombu, mushrooms