When Noah and I began our courtship through long emailed letters he was still working in Asia and Africa, with a home base between projects in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. From more than one country, he wrote fondly of the comfort of noodles. The simplicity and warmth of a very basic simple soup, just broth, sauce, greens, and noodles. If I were to dig back through our history, I am sure I could find the slightly giddy Skype text chat wherewe used “noodle” as an affectionate mutual moniker.
After he moved back to the US, one clear drawback to our small-town Pacific Northwest life was a noticeable deficiency of street stalls where a weary conservation worker/ photographer/ writer/ farmer could walk out and pick up a restorative hot steaming bowl of noodles and vegetables in broth. The solution, as has become the case with so many farming needs from soup to chicken pluckers, was simply to learn to make it ourselves.
The following recipe is a simple base that can be improvised upon endlessly, works with fresh or frozen greens, and seems especially appealing in the cold rainy moments of spring when the field is full of leaves that have to be harvested. After a particularly good batch of broth came out of our last chicken butchering (big feet on those roosters = thick and savory broth), we have used this soup to warm up and get back to the field many days these past few weeks. Whatever your tasks at hand this week, we hope it will bring come comfort to your table, too.
- 2 quarts of the best broth or soup stock you can make or get, home-made if possible. Bonus points for a broth made with chicken feet for extra gelatinous goodness. If your broth is lacking in oomph, consider adding a tablespoon or two of Miso paste to help.
- 6-12 cloves garlic
- 2 dried “red rocket” chilies, finely chopped or ground in a spice mill or coffee grinder. can substitute 1-2 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 head Boc Choi
- 1 bag (1/2 lb) cooking greens or Spicy Mix/ Asian Greens mix
- 1 medium onion
- soy sauce, salt and pepper, and hot sauce, to taste
- 4-6 oz of noodles (we like Soba noodles, or a rice noodle, but have been known to use whatever was in the pantry, in a pinch..including broken up lasagna noodles on one desperately cold and rainy harvest day this spring)
In a medium-large pot, slowly bring the broth to a low simmer. Add noodles and allow to simmer while you cook other ingredients (approximately 8-10 minutes). Check periodically, and remove from heat when noodles reach almost-done stage.
While noodles are simmering in the broth:
Coursely chop onion, garlic, and boc choi head (stems and greens).
Sautee the onion and garlic in oil (sesame or coconut oil are especially good with this soup), until they start to soften.
Add the boc choi and red chili flakes, sauté for about 2 more minutes, until boc leaves turn brighter green and begin to soften.
At the very end of cooking, add the bag of cooking mix or Asian greens and stir in the pan until they just start to wilt. Add the contents of the sauté pan to the broth and noodle pot, and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes to blend flavors, then dish into bowls and serve hot.
Garnish if desired, with soy sauce, drops of sesame oil, rice vinegar, chopped green onions, peanuts, or cilantro, more red chili flakes, sri racha sauce, grated radishes…for example.
Other options: in season, add thinly sliced carrots, sweet peppers, cabbage, or summer squash to the veggie combo. You can skip the noodles entirely and pack it with additional greens, for a grain free version. You can vary the broth by adding a few spoonfuls of peanut butter and a dash of rice vinegar or cider vinegar, and/ or a spoonful minced ginger.