A simple, fragrant noodle soup

Use this recipe as a template for your own soup to enjoy a bowl of warming Asian flavours anytime.

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This is a recipe that doesn’t really need to exist because a fragrant bowl of noodle soup doesn’t need much of a recipe. I offer it to you with one hand and encourage you to give it no more than a passing glance with the other. By all means, make it according to my directions if you must, but treat it as a template to which you can bring your own creativity and tastes.

The soup itself is a simple infusion of stock and aromatics. Chicken stock is my go-to, and vegetable a close second, though both beef and fish stocks have turned up over the years.

As for noodles, you don’t need me to tell you which to use: the ones you like are the correct choice. I love hokkien noodles in a soup and will use them whenever I have them to hand, although there’s a big basket in my pantry stocked with nothing but noodles (Nothing But Noodles would be a good restaurant name) and whatever’s near the top will get a run: udon, soba, thick or thin rice noodles, a bundle of vermicelli bean noodles … you get the idea.

I only use one vegetable, usually an Asian green of some sort, and lots of it. Anything with a thin leaf will work because it doesn’t have to be cooked separately: simply chop it up and drop it into the bowl, letting the hot soup wilt and cook it for you. Choy sum (with its beautiful little flowers) or bok choy are reliable old favourites, but use whatever’s sparklingly fresh and available.

If there’s a little protein lurking in the fridge, it gets chopped and added. There’s often a bit of leftover chicken in my fridge, or some prawns. You don’t need much (in fact, you don’t need any at all) but if it’s around, I’ll use it. Another of my kitchen constants is an Asian, usually Japanese, pickle: either electric yellow daikon radish or psychedelically pink pickled ginger. A few shreds give your soup a touch of beauty and a hit of contrasting sharpness, gentle as it is. I’ll garnish anything – it's a compulsion – so my choices here are either some chopped coriander or a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.


A simple, fragrant noodle soup

 

Serves 2.

250g (½ pound) hokkien noodles
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 star anise
3cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, sliced
½ teaspoon sesame oil
2 cups choy sum, chopped
150g (5 oz) chicken, cooked
2 tablespoons pickled ginger
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Cook the noodles in plenty of (unsalted) boiling water according to the time recommended on the packet. Fresh hokkien noodles only need 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Bring the stock, soy, star anise and ginger to a gentle boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste: if you want more of a punch from the star anise and ginger, simply let it simmer for a minute or two more, or as long as you think it needs. Add the sesame oil at the last minute.

Divide the noodles and choy sum (or vegetable of your choice) between two bowls. Pour over the hot soup. Top with a few slices of chicken, a little pickled ginger and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.