Main plate Chinese aromatic chicken noodle soup

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Michi

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This soup has interesting aromatic notes and makes for a nice change from Western-style chicken soup.

The ingredients are mostly dried, available at Asian or Indian supermarkets.

Precise quantities are not necessary. Mix and match as you see fit. You can add other ingredients, such as bok choy, or different types of fungus, such as shiitake or porcini, or anything else you might have around.

IMG_3663.jpg


Ingredients

Soup base:
  • 4 pieces dried fish maw, about 8-10 cm long
  • ½ cup dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 4-5 slices of dried Rehmannia rhizome, about 4-5 cm in diameter and 0.5 cm thick
  • 2 dried honey dates
  • 1 piece dried sarsaparilla root, about the size of a ping-pong ball or a little over, sliced into two thick pieces
  • 2 tbsp polished pearl barley
  • 5 cm piece of ginger, about 2 cm in diameter, thickly sliced
  • ¼ tsp MSG
  • 1 l water
  • 1.5 l chicken stock
Chicken:
  • 500 g chicken thigh
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1.5 tsp dark soy sauce (I prefer dark mushroom soy sauce, but normal soy sauce is fine, too.)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced
  • 6-8 medium cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, cut into short (5 cm) fine julienne (matchstick thickness)
Noodles:

Use any kind of noodles you fancy. This time, I used very thin Japanese ramen, the dried kind that comes tied into small bundles.

Garnish:
  • finely sliced scallion
  • finely sliced chilli, fresh or pickled (medium heat)
Method

Soup base:
  1. Soak the fish maw and dried mushrooms in a little warm water until soft enough to cut (maybe an hour). Once soft, cut the fish maw into thin rings and the mushrooms into small (1 cm) pieces or strips. Keep the soaking liquid.
  2. Put the remaining dry ingredients into a strainer and rinse with cold water.
  3. Put all the dry ingredients, MSG, ginger, fish maw and mushrooms (plus their soaking liquid) into a dutch oven or similar, add the water, and bring to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, add the chicken stock and reduce the heat. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer for three hours.
Chicken:
  1. Cut the chicken into thin strips, add salt, sugar, pepper, corn starch, cooking wine, and soy sauce. Mix thoroughly and put it in the fridge.
  2. About 45 minutes before the soup base is done, heat the oil in a fry pan on medium, add the onion, and sautée until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and sautée for another minute or so.
  4. Add the chicken strips, turn up the heat, and lightly fry the chicken. No need to cook it all the way through, and no need to brown anything.
  5. Just before the chicken is cooked (with some pieces still partially raw), add the julienne carrot and fry for another two minutes or so.
Finishing:
  1. Use a spider or flat strainer to fish out the large pieces of dried ingredients (Rehmannia, sarsaparilla, and honey dates) and discard those.
  2. Add the fried chicken and carrots to the simmering soup base.
  3. Adjust seasoning with salt, or use fish sauce for extra umami. (It will likely not need a lot of extra salt; be careful to not make the soup too salty.)
  4. Simmer the soup for another 30-40 minutes or so, until close to the three-hour mark.
  5. Just before the three-hour mark, cook the noodles.
  6. Put the noodles into a serving bowl, cover with the chicken soup, and garnish with scallion and chilli.
 
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Noodle Soup

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Not sure how easy some of that is to find in the US but I would like to try. When I was taking cooking classes in Cambodia I noticed it seemed like most of the seafood in the wet markets came in some dried form. I asked one of my instructors why we weren't learning to cook with it and she informed me "that is only for poor people!" But to me it seemed like that is what real Cambodian cooking was about . I would still like to learn more about cooking with dried seafood.
 

Michi

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But to me it seemed like that is what real Cambodian cooking was about . I would still like to learn more about cooking with dried seafood.
Go to any Asian supermarket and have a look around. There is usually a wide selection of dried seafood. Anchovies, all sorts of other fish, scallops, mussels, squid, octopus, sea cucumber, jelly fish, you name it.

I usually pick up something weird that I've never used or seen before on most visits. Not just seafood, but all sorts of things: maybe a new vegetable (such as bitter melon, which was new to me), or some unusual fruit, or a fungus that I haven't tried, and—every now and then—something where I have no idea what it is that I just bought. Then I hit Google to figure out what to do with it. I almost always works out or alright, and I learn something new and get ideas for new directions to branch out to.

I have a big hunk of dried octopus in the pantry at the moment. That will soon turn into a meal; I found a recipe from Mauritius :)

If you want to start out simple, make your own XO sauce. It's worth it!
 
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