Asian Vegetable-Noodle Soup

I have to admit, I’ve not always been the biggest soup person. That’s not to say I don’t love certain (indeed, many) soups — crushed lentil, gazpacho and Tom Yum come to mind — it’s just that old standards like chicken noodle, lentil or potato-leek never really did much for me. My slight apathy toward certain soups gained momentum when I started eating a vegan diet. Vegetable stock necessarily replaced chicken as a base, and I was immediately disappointed with how inadequate a substitute it could be in certain applications. Take, for example, an Asian broth. Something about a backdrop of celery, turmeric and onion — three ingredients nearly always going into a traditional vegetable stock — just doesn’t balance with the salty, subtle, umami-like taste of most Asian soups.

Enter this homemade broth. Inspired by my recipe for vegetarian pho (an excpetion to the vegetable-stock-is-no-good rule), I decided to infuse my own broth with ginger and garlic, then add soy sauce for a salty, Asian flavor. A hint of sesame oil adds a bit of nuttiness and added flavor.

If you commit this recipe to memory, my guess is you’ll be rewarded when cold and flu season hits. In my experience, an easy, light and subtle hot broth is as much a required remedy as zinc, vitamin C and rest. You can omit the noodles if you choose, swap out certain veggies (though the baby bok choy seems to me to be a must here), and add some red chile flakes for spiciness if you’d like.

Serves: about 4

Soy-Ginger Broth:

6 cups water

1 large bulb ginger, washed and chopped into 4-5 pieces

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed but left intact

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari sauce

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

salt to taste

Additions:

3 bunches baby bok choy, washed and chopped

1/2 block extra firm tofu, diced

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

rice noodles (cooked according to package directions)

chopped scallions (optional)

Directions:

1. Add water, garlic, ginger and soy sauce to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove garlic and ginger from broth using a strainer. Add vegetables and simmer until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add tofu and heat through.

2. Remove soup from heat and stir in sesame oil. If necessary, add a little salt to taste. Ladle broth and vegetables over prepared rice noodles and serve immediately.

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