I have talked a bit about soup before, and my anxiety towards it.
It’s still not something I make a lot for myself, but after waking up one morning with a head full of whatever it is that gets in there when you’re sick, I needed something hot. Something right.
I grew to love pho and ramen in Portland. Its climate is good for steamy soup dishes. On particularly cold days, you’d find the pho houses packed to the gills with folks leaning over their steamy bowls of brothy goodness.
I figured, why not share this little dish with y’all. I’m not reinventing anything here, and this is one of the most simple things you could ever make. But you do have to do a few things right, and maybe I can help you in that process.
I use chicken bones because it’s what I have most regularly hanging out in my freezer from my obsession with roast chickens. I wait till I have about 5-6 carcasses/backbones before I make a stock, because like I’ve written here before, you really need a lot of bones to make a good gelatinous stock.
Making stock needs some time. (Don’t we all?)
Restaurants will let them go overnight to extract all the marrow and flavor, but I did mine in about eight hours.
In a big pot, throw in your chicken bones and cover with cold water. Put on a high heat until it comes to a simmer, and lower the temp so you can keep a good, low simmer. Maybe a few bubbles popping up every so often.
I guess I’m weird in that I don’t add my vegetables until the last hour or so of cooking. I strain my chicken bones, then I add the vegetables. And this is your basic ratio of onions, carrots and celery. Use 2:1 on the onion to carrot/celery ratio. I do the same for my gumbo stock as well, by adding half a bundle of scallions, whole. Toss in a few bay leaves, a whole head of garlic and a few pinches of salt.
Once your vegetables are cooked, strain and set aside. Your basic chicken stock is now done. You can keep reducing it if you’d like, but I like to have a good bit to cook with for future meals.
Time for soft boiled eggs. Don’t be afraid. It is easy, they just need your undivided attention for about 7 minutes, okay?
Bring up to boil a couple of inches of water in a small pot, it won’t cover the eggs completely. That’s okay. Once the water is boiling, toss in however many *refrigerator cold* eggs you want and cover for 6 1/2 minutes. When they have finished, place directly into an ice bath to stop the cooking process, yo. That’s important.
Now, comes the fun part. By now, you should have your noodles of choice in hand. I found these simple, thin wheat noodles at a local Thai market that were delicious and easy. They cooked in about one minute, but really, the noodle is important. I prefer wheat, as I think it carries the soup a little better. Adds more substance, which a person afraid of soup will love.
Dish out your broth into a bowl. This is where you season with your salt. By salt I mean actual salt, but also soy and fish sauce. Taste as you do this, because all of our palettes differ. I season with kosher salt till it’s almost where I like it. Then I add soy. Taste. Mm. Okay, fish sauce. Fish sauce is important, but it can overwhelm a dish. Use it like hot sauce. Little bits at a time until you have what you want.
So, your broth is seasoned to perfection. Now, strain your noodles as much as you can and drop them into your broth. Make sure it’s in a bowl that can contain a lot of goodness, but it will continue to get larger as you build.
I forgot to mention you could add meat at this point, but I didn’t really have anything to add. Usually it’ll be something like thinly sliced pork shoulder or meatballs, maybe even some little slabs of pork belly. All are delicious, I decided to keep this simple. (and cheap.)
This is when I throw in herbs and condiments.
A hefty 1/4 cup of cilantro, plus stems.
5-6 torn leaves of sweet basil or thai basil if you have it
1/2 cup of bean sprouts
About three tablespoons of thinly sliced scallions
The juice of half a lime
This is also when I cut my egg in half and place slightly submerged on top of the soup. I’ll crack some fresh pepper on them babies too. This is when you start getting really excited for all your hard work.
For heat, which I feel is a must with pho or ramen, I add fresh chili paste via sambal oelek. You can get that stuff almost anywhere these days. Usually it’s right next to your beloved sriracha, which I encourage you to use sparingly. I say that because this is a dish of complex flavors. If you put too much heat in, all you’ll taste is heat. Give it just a little nudge and see how far it takes you.
This is a great dish to make for a lot of people. It also looks super impressive. The picture I took can’t do much justice, but it really is such a nourishing and comforting dish to make when you feel a bit under. It jacks up your taste buds and gets your senses moving a bit.
Any questions, I’m happy to answer.