Asian Modular Soup
Asian Modular Soup
Asian Modular Soup

The other day, an unmistakable winter-sneak-preview chill tinged the air, and I craved a huge bowl of noodle soup – the comforting, flavorful kind that I usually get from my friendly neighborhood Malaysian, Japanese or Vietnamese restaurant. So what’s a nice Polish girl to do, besides order take out? Do a pantry raid and DIY, of course.

Since this recipe is modular, you can take it in any direction you want. You can go Southeast Asian by adding coconut milk, bruised lemongrass and Thai curry paste to the broth. Or you can remain austere, as I did, and stick to a simple clear mushroom broth. The consistency is also up to you. I wanted lots of clear broth with just a hint of noodles. Maybe you prefer more noodles and less broth. The point is, you can craft this soup to suit your taste. Enjoy!

Infinitely modular Asian-Inspired Soup

Vegan, gluten-free possible

Serves 6-8

Asian Modular Soup
Asian Modular Soup

Broth:

  • 8 cups water or richly flavored vegan broth
  • 1-2 stalks celery, sliced finely on the diagonal
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed or sliced
  • 1 scallion or 2 T sliced onion
  • A few of your favorite mushrooms (I used beech)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced or sliced
  • 2 Thai hot chilis or up to 1/2 tsp red hot pepper flakes (optional)
  • For a richer broth, substitute 1 or 2 cups of broth with full-fat coconut milk and consider adding some curry powder
  • Optional add ins: Thai curry paste, curry powder, bruised lemongrass, curry leaves, kefir lime leaves

Choose your veggies
Mix and match up to 3 cups of vegetables. The list below is simply a thought starter. I encourage you to use at least 1/2 cup mushrooms: they quickly infuse your broth with loads of woody flavor:

  • Carrots, finely sliced
  • Cabbage, shredded
  • Onions, sliced
  • Peppers, chopped or thinly sliced
  • Mushrooms, sliced or whole, depending on the variety. Experiment using exotic mushrooms here beyond the obvious button or Cremini
  • Mung bean spouts
  • Spinach, chopped
  • Broccoli florets
  • Cauliflower florets
  • Shredded or sliced daikon radish

Choose your starch

  • 2-4 servings of rice or brown rice noodles; spaghetti, regular or gluten free; udon or soba noodles; mung bean noodles
  • 1/2 to 1 cup brown* or white rice
    • *If using brown rice, add it at the broth stage to cut down recipe time.

Choose your protein

  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed, or dry fried,
  • 1 package tofu puffs (Fried tofu available in most Asian groceries)
  • 1 cup cooked adzuki beans
  • 1 cup frozen edamame
  • 8 ox crumbled tempeh (precooked and seasoned will make for a more flavorful soup)

Optional add-ins

  • Seaweed (Nori, wakame, kombu, arame, etc)
  • Splash of sriracha sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Miso paste (I prefer yellow miso paste)
  • Sliced scallion
  • Toasted sesame seeds
Beech mushrooms
Beech mushrooms

Put all the broth ingredients in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Lower the hear, cover and simmer for at least at hour, adding more liquid if needed. This step can’t be rushed, and frankly, your broth will taste better if you simmer it even longer. But an hour is realistic.

Taste your broth toward the end of the simmering time and adjust the seasonings, if needed. (If using brown rice as your starch, add it at this stage to cut down the total recipe time.)

Add vegetables and cook, partially covered, until they are soft. Add noodles, rice or beans and cook until they are al dente, adding more liquid as needed.

I like to eat this soup from a very large, pretty soup bowl, with a spoon and some chopsticks. It makes the simple act of supping on soup more of an art. Just before serving, I usually spoon a dab of miso paste and a splash of sesame oil in the bowl, for some extra layers of flavor. Ladle in the soup, stir until the miso dissolves and enjoy.

Question: How do you envision making this soup?