I don’t think there is any comfort food better than noodles in broth. You may argue for mac and cheese or mashed potatoes, but they will leave you wanting to take a nap, sitting like rock in your stomach. After some nice noodle soup you feel like you can climb a mountain. In the past few years noodle houses and ramen shops have been popping up all over the States, raising expectations behind the 8-cent staple that got you through college. This recipe will take a bit of effort behind boiling some water and tearing open a flavor packet, but it is well worth it.
The following recipe uses shrimp, and the broth is a simple shrimp stock, sweetened with mirin and salted with fish sauce. Any variety of Asian greens, (or non-Asian greens for that matter) will work and as usual I encourage the home chef to move beyond bok choy.
- large pot
- colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth, or clean kitchen towels
- large bowl
- wooden spatula
- 1 lb smallish head on shrimp, or ez-peal shrimp, cleaned, heads, tails and shells separated
- canola oil
- 1 small fennel bulb, sliced
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1 stalk celery, sliced
- 15 white peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 bunch parsley
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 daikon radish, shredded
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 bunch Asian greens, sliced
- 2 handfuls bean sprouts
- baking soda
- rice flour
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 3 tbs fish sauce
- 1 package wonton-style noodles*
- slivered thai chili to taste
- several leaves thai basil, sliced
- several leaves mint, sliced
- several cilantro leaves, sliced
1) Make the shrimp stock. In a large pot over medium high heat, stir the shrimp tails, heads an shells with a few tbs canola oil. When they shrimp turns pink and become fragrant add the fennel, carrot, celery and onion. Stir to incorporate and cook until softened. Add the parsley, peppercorns, bay leaf and garlic, along with 2 1/2 quarts water and bring to a boil for ten minutes. Pour the contents into the cloth-lined colander set over a large bowl. With the back of a wooden spatula, press on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible.
2) Blanch the vegetables. Clean out the pot, fill it with water and bring it to a boil, before adding a tbs of baking soda. Add the daikon, carrot, greens and sprouts to the pot. After a few minutes, remove the vegetables with a spider, and transfer to a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking.
3) Boil the noodles. Once the water returns to a boil plunge them in the water for only about 10 seconds. Drain through a colander, and run cold tap water over the noodles to stop them from cooking. Lightly fluff the noodles with chopsticks so that they don’t stick together.
4) Heat and season the broth, and cook the shrimp. Dredge the shrimp is rice flour, mixed with salt to season, before shaking off excess flour, and cooking for a minute or two on each side in a smoking hot cast iron skillet with canola oil. Remove to paper towels. Bring the stock to a gentle simmer and add the mirin and fish sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
5) Compose the noodle bowls. With tongs, transfer a single servings of noodles to individual serving dishes. Ladle broth to cover, before adding the shrimp, blanched vegetables, chili and herbs.
*Wonton-style noodles can be found in any Asian market. They are fresh egg noodles that usually come in either an angel hair or linguini shape.