They say that chicken soup is good for the soul. I say they’re right. In my mind, there exists no greater comfort food in the world than a steaming hot bowl of brothy goodness, brimming with juicy chunks of chicken, vegetables and, for me, noodles. Of course, chicken soup is also good for the body. After all, this has been the dish of choice for mothers to spoon into their ailing children for centuries. They knew then what science tells us now; that chicken soup really can cure what ails you, body and soul.
Every culture has its own version of this soothing and restorative elixir. The Italians have their brodo; the Greeks, their avgolemono; the Belgians, waterzooi; the Portuguese, canja, and the Koreans, their samgyetang. Each is unique, utilizing a plethora of different seasonings such as cumin, ginger, garlic, lemon, ginseng and jujube fruits. Some have cream based broths and some are clear. All have some combination of chopped vegetables mixed in. Equally distinct, are the many different types of starch product used. Rice, potatoes, pasta and barley all make an appearance at one time or another. And, let’s not forget the matzoh balls!
My contribution to this long and illustrious list is Asian Chicken Noodle Soup. I love this soup for several reasons, the first being, that it is really delicious. The cocktail of seasonings added to the broth creates a rich and deeply satisfying backdrop for the crisp, fresh vegetables and silky noodles.
I also love this soup because it is simple to make and can be ready in about thirty minutes. The base of the soup is canned chicken broth. Any kind will do. You can also be creative with the vegetables you choose. The original recipe calls for Napa cabbage, which is what I prefer, but you can switch it out for bok choy or whatever else you like. I have tried many different combinations, including snow peas, bean sprouts and shredded carrots. I like to use a couple of different kinds of mushrooms in this dish too. They absorb the broth and add good flavor and texture. My favorites are shitake, oyster and enoki. While the taste of this soup is a bit exotic, most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry. The rest are easily found in any supermarket.
As we edge closer and closer toward the Winter abyss, this main dish soup is a great way to have a healthy, warming week night meal with a minimum of time and trouble.
Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Kathleen Daelemans
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, plus 1 teaspoon
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Asian chile sauce
8 cups chicken broth
1 lb. chicken tenders or boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut crosswise into thin strips
4 cups chopped Chinese vegetables or Napa cabbage
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 (8-ounce) package rice noodles, prepared according to packing directions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
6 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
Mix soy sauce, mirin, 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil, garlic, ginger, sugar, vinegar, and chile paste in a small bowl.
Heat the broth in a medium saucepan. Add the soy sauce mixture, the chicken, and the vegetables and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Add the remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Pour over prepared Chinese noodles. Garnish with cilantro and scallions.