We have had some cold weather here in Seattle recently. Cold here means high 30′s during the day and well below that at night. I know for those on the East coast and in the Midwest, this is small potatoes. It makes me realize what a true weather wimp I am. Rain, endless gray days, darkness at 4pm – all those things I can handle. Extreme temperatures though? I can’t. Randy likes to joke that I am only comfortable if it is between 70 and 75 degrees and I think that is about right. Too hot and I am miserable, too cold and I am miserable. This makes it nearly impossible for me to live anywhere other than Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and perhaps San Diego. (I could live in London or Paris though.)
One nice thing about a relatively mild (read: rainy) climate is that, except for a few staggeringly hot days each summer, we can enjoy soup all year. I am a big fan of soup for many of the same reasons that most people are. It tends to be easy, you can easily feed a lot of people, it can be very healthy, and soup keeps well. Many soups taste better a day or two (or even three) after they have been made. Busy families need soup.
I am a sucker for any Asian soup, especially those involving rice noodles. I love eating pho, the rock star Vietnamese rice noodle soup, at my favorite joint in any season. For how much I love this kind of soup, I don’t make it all that often. I recently paid a pretty penny for a cookbook from Australia because I was blinded by the fact that there was a delicious sounding pho recipe in there. The book was small and now I fear it is at the bottom of a toy box covered with trucks, trains, and construction vehicles. So I made this soup instead.
Something I really liked about this version was how much flavor the broth brought to the bowl. I’ve made Asian vegetable stock for various thing before but somehow this was much better. Yes, you cheat a bit by using a small amount of pre-made veg stock, but if you use a good one (Rapunzel is the only brand I like) you end up with an incredibly flavorful base for your soup. One that tastes like it’s been simmering for hours, not 20 minutes.
Noodle Soup Previously on Dana Treat: Asian Coconut Noodle Soup
Tofu and Shiitake Noodle Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine
There was originally one pound of eggplant in this soup as well but I have very specific ideas of where eggplant should be. Not in Asian noodle soup for example. I used a pad thai width noodle here but the super thin kind would be great too. If you use those, I would do 4 ounces instead of 6 ounces.
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 whole lemongrass stalks, thinly sliced
Six ¼-inch thick slices of fresh ginger, smashed slightly, plus 1 tbsp. very finely chopped fresh ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
Freshly ground white pepper
6 ounces rice vermicelli
¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and caps quartered
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 pound firm flavored tofu, such as Thai, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ a Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
½ cup bean sprouts
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. mint leaves, torn
Lime wedges and hot sauce for serving
In a medium soup pot, combine the vegetable broth, water, lemongrass, sliced ginger, and soy sauce and season generously with white pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat until flavorful, about 20 minutes. Strain the broth into a heatproof bowl, pressing on the solids. Discard the solids.
Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Cook the rice vermicelli until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool under running water.
Wipe out the soup pot and heat just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and white pepper, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tofu along with the vegetable broth, cabbage and noodles and simmer just until the cabbage is wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the bean sprouts, cilantro and mint and season the soup with salt and white pepper. Serve the soup in deep bowl.s passing lime wedges and hot sauce at the table.