Recipe & Post Mortem: Wombok and Noodle Soup for a Rainy Day

The weather has turned cold, which means lots of leafy greens in my farm box, and particularly lots of Asian greens, about which I have few ideas what to do with. But this is definitely soup weather, and so I decided that some sort of noodle soup with the gloriously purple wombok and red carrots from my veggie box might be good.

I adapted the stock recipe from a salad dressing recipe in Hetty McKinnon’s lovely book, Neighbourhood, but I really wanted a soup, not a salad, so I reduced it significantly less. Also, I changed around the veggies and noodles to match what I had on hand, and left out the tofu, because I didn’t have five spice tofu anyway.

I’ll be honest – the stock was fantastic, but I definitely picked the wrong noodles, which developed a weird, stretchy texture, and I think I had too many herbs on top. Andrew hated the carrots, but I really liked them. And I fear that in general, this recipe fell afoul of the household rule that if I cook something East Asian inflected, either I will like it and Andrew will hate it, or vice versa. This one, I liked, and Andrew just looked very sad (he said that this was because he had a sore back, and I’m sure this is true… but it clearly wasn’t a hit with him, and perversely, the only bit he liked was the noodles, because of course he did).

Anyway. I think this recipe has potential (I really, REALLY loved the stock), so I’m posting it here so that I have it as a starting point for next time I want to play with this idea.

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For the stock

  • Two small red onions
  • A small piece of ginger, or a couple of teaspoons of ginger from a tube
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
  • 6 cups water
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • four dried shiitake mushrooms (I could only get the crispy kind. They did the job. Other dried mushrooms would probably also do the job)

For the soup

  • 1/2 a small purple wombok
  • 1 large red carrot
  • Half a bunch of spring onions
  • 1 red chilli
  • 250 g noodles of your choice (but make sure you pick a kind that won’t start dissolving in soup)
  • a big handful of coriander
  • Vietnamese mint or Thai basil (or plain basil if that’s what Click and Collect gets you, sigh)
  • 1 lime
Isn’t this a stunning looking vegetable?

Now what will you do with it?

If you are feeling fancy, peel and halve the onions and char them just a little over an open flame.

To a dry saucepan over a high heat, add the whole spices, and cook for maybe 30 seconds. Add the onions and ginger and stir around and cook for another minute.

Add the water, pepper, tamari, mushrooms and bring to the boil. Simmer for half an hour or so – skim if you feel the need, but I won’t blame you if you don’t. God knows, I can’t be bothered.

While this is happening, deal with your vegetables. It’s easier if you get out a big bowl and a little bowl. Finely slice your wombok and carrots, and slice your spring onions a bit less finely. Slice half your chilli into rings or half rings. All of this goes into the big bowl.

Finely chop the rest of your chilli and your herbs, and put them in the little bowl. Mix together.

Juice the lime, and check whether the noodles need any preparation or if they can just be added to the soup. I strongly recommend picking noodles that can just go into the soup with the vegetables.

Strain the broth through a seive, and return it to the saucepan over a low to medium heat. Now isn’t a bad time to taste for salt and see if you need to add any. I found that I did.

Add everything from the big bowl to the broth, along with the noodles, and simmer for 3-5 minutes. You want your veg to be tender-crisp.

Take off the heat and squeeze in the lime, which will turn your broth pleasingly pink. Ladle into bowls and top with the herbs and remaining chilli. Serve!

Variations

This recipe is vegan, gluten-free with the right noodles, and nut-free. It’s not the most filling, and I reckon it would be massively improved by some shredded chicken – chicken noodle pho, anyone? Tofu would also give it more oomph, but you’d want a tofu that had been pre-marinated and cooked, I think, or it would be bland.

I definitely needed more subtlety with the herbs – just a little handful on top would be nice. And more mushroom in the broth would have been good, I think.

I feel like fewer noodles and more crispy veg would have been better. Maybe just drop the veg in long enough to blanch? And maybe sugar snap peas instead of carrots (but I liked the carrots…). Ooh, maybe edamame, actually – a bit of crunch AND a bit of protein!

I’m definitely open to suggestions. Especially for noodle varieties.

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