Saturday, January 3, 2015

Egg Noodle Soup

Back in college, I occasionally spent time with my Thai friend and his family in Atlanta. His mom was a wonderful home cook. Some of her dishes are so simple that I had to wonder how they could get such satisfying and complex flavor. One day, I decided to just watch her make her signature dish, “chicken noodle soup”. Most chefs make big fuss on the right method to make chicken broth - the cut of chicken, the length of the cooking time, the amount of heat and the types of aromatics have been discussed all in details.  Honestly, I have never read in great detail for these dialogues, since they do more harm than good for me. What I want is maximum pleasure from cooking and eating, not frustration and hysteria. 

My friend’s mom made making chicken broth easy  (it totally should be), while the broth is still the cleanest and most flavorful I have ever tasted. Not to mention the fact that it was made with just four ingredients, a whole chicken, water, garlic and cilantro roots. She boiled the chicken chunks under low heat first to wash out the blood, and then boil the meat again with garlic and cilantro roots for hours on low and slow simmer. She simply put the pot on simmer before she went to work, and by the time she came back the liquid gold was ready. The ingredients in her chicken noodle soup were simplicity at its finest – cooked egg noodle, meatballs, steamy hot chicken broth, then garnished with fried garlic, cilantro and chili flakes. When you take a bite, the fresh herbs and chili flakes instantly hit your nostrils, then the warm savory broth cradle you with such warm comfort, followed by satisfying slurp of thin noodles that you just want to dive in for more.

I am glad that I have left the schizophrenic weather of Atlanta for ever-sunny Irvine, but part of me still miss going over to my friend’s house to munch on his mom’s amazing cooking. Sometimes, I made this noodle soup not only for my gustatory cravings but also for nostalgic values. Occasional trips to my past memory lanes make me appreciate the fact that what stays with us forever are laughs, good times and struggles that we go through together with our beloved ones. I know it sounds cliche, but it is true.

Here is how I made my version of her egg noodle soup. I adopted some techniques for making ramen broth by using pork bones, instead of chicken broth, to give the broth for richer flavor. Top this satiating noodle soup with grilled trumpet mushroom and soft-boiled egg, and you get yourself a perfect comfort food to curl with during cold winter days.



Ingredients for the broth
  • 3 lbs. of pork bones (I prefer the ones with fat and skin around the bones)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • About 2 inch length of ginger knob
  • 6 scallion stalks (white parts for broth and green parts for the garnish)


Directions
  • Rinse the pork bones with cold water and simmer them in water under low heat for about 30 minutes until you get rid of the blood in the bones.
  • Wash the bones again the cold water thoroughly, making sure that you remove any visible cooked blood (can be seen as dark smudges).
  • Place the pork bones, aromatics and water in a pot with tight lid, and simmer under low heat for at least 8 hours.
  • Chill the stock in the fridge until the surface fat becomes solid.
  • Skim of the fat. At this point, if you also see your broth in a semi-solid state, give yourself a pat on your shoulders. You are only one more step away from wonderful broth.
  • Then, strain the broth through cheesecloth or paper towel. Refrigerate until use.
  • Reserve the pork fat and skin around the bones.


Toppings

Grilled trumpet mushrooms
  • Slice the mushrooms lengthwise, and grill until golden brown with some butter and salt.
Soft-boil egg
  • Place the eggs in boiling water for exactly 7 minutes.
  • Then, chill the eggs immediately with ice cold water.


How to assemble
  • Cook the egg noodles according to the package instruction.
  • Chop the reserve pork fat, and scallions finely.
  • Heat up the broth and season with salt (or soy sauce). I omit pepper here because I don’t want sharp peppery notes to interfere with rich creamy pork broth.
  • Put the noodles in a bowl, ladle broth and top with chopped pork fat, scallions, grilled mushrooms and soft-boiled egg.
  • Serve immediately.



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