After we return home from any significant travel, Regina and I always require food that is Asian, that is healthy, that is comforting, that welcomes us back to our normal lives. When we got to Culver City from Portland on Monday, I cranked out this superb noodle soup to get us back in the swing of things.
It totally revived us from a very tiring day of travel. Flying with an eight-year-old and a three-month-old along with all the extra crap that accompanies an infant (crib, carseat, etc) can wear a man down!
Last time I went to Ranch 99 (the closest big Chinese supermarket to our house) I picked up some of these Taiwanese dried noodles infused with spinach, which gives the pasta a gentle emerald hue. In size the noodles are very similar to ramen, except straight instead of curly.
From the freezer I pulled out some excellent homemade chicken stock (although decent canned chicken broth would work, if you want to emulate this dish) and simmered about eight cups of it with a glug of dark soy sauce, a big pinch of white pepper, a couple of big spoonfuls of xao xing cooking wine, a nice big slice of ginger, a crushed garlic clove, a three-inch piece of lemongrass stalk, a tablespoon of sugar, and three or four scallions. After about an hour I strained the broth of the all the solids and checked for seasoning. I added a bit of salt.
For the toppings I blanched a little gailan (Chinese “broccoli”) and some very thin and young yu choy in a little boiling salted water. After two minutes in boiling water I shocked the greens in an ice bath to halt the cooking. I drained the greens and cut them into smaller pieces.
I then poured some hot water over a few fresh shiitake mushrooms; I soaked the shrooms for about two minutes and drained them. I stemmed them and cut the caps into thin slices. For garnishes I cut some scallion greens, picked and washed some fresh cilantro leaves, and coarsely chopped some watercress.
I picked up half a duck from the Chinese place around the corner on the way home from the airport. This duck I cut up into bite-size chunks.
I made a few quick wonton-style dumplings with a filling of ground veal, ginger, garlic, green onions, and cilantro bound together with a beaten egg and some corn starch. I seasoned the filling with a pinch of salt, some ground white pepper, a tiny drop of xao xing, and a little bit of soy sauce. I folded up the filling in some standard wonton wrappers and sealed them with a little brushed egg wash. I then simmered the dumplings in some of the seasoned chicken broth for about three minutes, removed them from the hot water with a skimmer, and then held them in a bowl of room temperature water so that the cooking would halt but they would remain moist.
I boiled the noodles for about three minutes (they were still kind of al dente) and drained them very well. While they were still hot I put the noodles into bowls and topped them duck meat, yu choy, gailan, shiitakes, cooked dumplings, watercress, scallions, and cilantro. I poured scalding-hot broth over the whole thing and garnished with a bit of ground white pepper and some crispy fried shallots (an Asian product that you can find in the dry-goods dept of any good Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese market). Regina eschewed hot sauce but I threw in a huge dollop of sambal oeleck for some real heat.
This noodle soup with healthy and hot and low-fat and absolutely restorative!