Soup Week 2010: Quick Asian Noodle Soup

Soup Week 2010: Quick Asian Noodle Soup

Can you feel that buzz in the air? An unlikely combination of excitement and warm, soothing comfort? It can mean only one thing: Soup Week has begun!

Every day this week, I’ll be posting a new soup recipe for you. Along the way we’ll hit Asia and its subcontinent, Italy, Spain, and the Middle East. As soups often are—excepting creamy ones, of course—most entries will be quite diet-friendly. Nearly all are packed with vegetables. And at least three of the five will be ready in 30 minutes or less. Seriously, soup is a busy, health-conscious person’s best friend.

First up is a recipe that’s diet-friendly, packed with vegetables, and fast—now how’s that for handy? This full meal in a bowl is deliciously flexible, since you can use either chicken or tofu and just about any vegetable you’ve got on hand, and it’s a kid-pleaser. That’s right, even Harry ate some, thanks to the noodles. Dude’ll eat anything with noodles. He still managed to avoid ingesting anything green, though.

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Quick Asian Noodle Soup
Serves 4
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Weight Watchers: 1 serving is 6 points

4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup mirin*
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 or 3 slices of ginger
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 leek, washed well and roughly chopped
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 5 ounces) or an equivalent amount of tofu, cut into thin strips
3 to 4 cups cut vegetables of your choice [I used zucchini, mushrooms, celery, spinach, and scallions]
8 ounces soba or other Asian noodles

Sesame oil, for drizzling
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
  2. Combine the broth, mirin, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and leek in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Cut the chicken and chop the vegetables while it’s simmering, and set them aside. Strain the broth, and return to the pan. Taste and adjust seasoning—it may need a bit more soy sauce.
  3. By now the water should be boiling. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions, then drain and set aside.
  4. Keeping the soup at a low simmer, add the chicken and any hard vegetables (like carrots). Simmer 2 to 3 minutes, then add soft vegetables like zucchini and mushrooms. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes, then add any greens you’re using, like spinach. If you’re using scallions, save some of the green part to scatter on top of each bowl.
  5. Add the noodles to the pot, stir, and serve. Drizzle each bowl with a bit of sesame oil, and sprinkle with chopped scallion.

* Edited to add: A reader already wrote in to ask about alternatives to mirin. Here’s what I wrote in the comments:

I turn to David Joachim’s Food Substitutions Bible in times like this. He says you can swap 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup dry sherry, vermouth, white wine, or sake, OR 1/2 cup amontillado sherry for 1/2 cup mirin.

Since this recipe uses 1/4 cup, just halve any of those.

If you’re concerned about using alcohol, even a little bit like this, I’d just add a teaspoon or two of honey to the mixture & call it a day.