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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup with Shiritaki Noodles


Making soup used to seem mysterious and time-consuming, but now I've come to the conclusion that it's got to be difficult to screw it up. Boil water with something to make stock, or buy premade stock and save yourself buttloads of time. Then you just add anything you like. I've gone through those steps multiple times and I've yet to come out with anything inedible or gross.

Since it's been pretty soup-weathery outside, I wanted to try something that I've been dying to try for ages. It all revolves around shiritaki noodles, a low carb, low fat, low calorie wet-packaged noodle made from yam and tofu. They have a different texture than any other noodle I've tried. Instead of the "bite" that you get from al-dente cooked pasta, these noodles have kind of a "snap" to them.

Since cutting back on some of the super-fatty foods in my diet, I've tried shiritaki noodles a few times. I've had them with regular old pasta sauce, and while it wasn't horrible, it also wasn't that great. These noodles seem better suited to some things than others, which is why I have been dying to try them in a soup. I suspected that the texture would really hold up well in a soup, and I have to say I was really happy with the way it all turned out. 

In the lazed-out mood I was in while shopping on this particular day, I picked up a package of soup greens for the veggies in this soup and only added a package of frozen peas and scallions to the mix. These pre-assembled packages usually contain all of your chicken soup basics: a few carrots, a couple of hearts of celery, a big parsnip, the white part of a leek, a turnip, a small yellow onion, and a small handful or so of herbs. I used all of those veggies in this soup, making it pretty American-style with added Asian flavors. I think this soup should be very versatile as far as vegetables go, so if you have something you want to get rid of, chuck it in. I really wanted to add some napa cabbage, but the idea didn't strike me until long after I was at home with my groceries with a big pot bubbling away on the stove. I also didn't add the herbs from the package and reserved them for later use. 

Asian-Inspired Vegetable Soup with Shiritaki Noodles

8 cups of vegetable stock
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about a teaspoon or more of minced ginger (or powdered ground ginger)
soy sauce
sesame oil
sriracha sauce (optional)
3 scallions, sliced
one small package of frozen peas
3-4 8 oz packages of tofu shiritaki noodles
vegetable oil
A package of soup greens, or any combination of the following vegetables:
-one parsnip, peeled and diced
-two large carrots, peeled and diced
-the white part of one leek, cleaned carefully and diced
-one turnip, diced
-a few hearts of celery, diced
-one small onion, quartered

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger (if fresh, not powdered) and stir until they become fragrant but not brown. Add the leeks and stir for a moment longer. Add the vegetables to the pot, excluding the peas and scallions, and then pour in the stock. Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Allow the soup to boil for 30 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are softened to your liking.

When the vegetables are soft, get a separate pot of water boiling for your noodles. While you are waiting, to the soup, add about 1 Tbsp of soy sauce, a few drops of sriracha sauce, and a very small drizzle of sesame oil. Taste the soup and salt and pepper to taste. My soup at this point wasn't nearly gingery enough, so I added some additional powdered ground ginger. Adjust these seasonings to your liking, then add the peas. (Note: be careful with sesame oil, it is extremely potent and you can easily add too much and over-sesame your soup. Add very small drizzles at a time, tasting as you go.)

Drain the packages of noodles in a colander and rinse well in the sink. The liquid the noodles are packaged in isn't the greatest smelling stuff, so you will want to rinse them and boil the noodles in a pot separate from the soup. Add the noodles to the boiling water and let them boil for about 3 minutes. Drain again, then either add them directly to the pot of soup or add some to individual bowls and ladle the soup over them. Garnish with chopped scallions. 

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