By Emily Paster
Is it cold where you are? Is the ground covered in snow? Yeah, tell me about it. After the coldest December in twenty years, Chicago is bracing itself for an even colder January. I came home from two weeks in sunny Florida to 18 inches of snow and below-freezing temperatures. It has been a shock to the system to say the least.
What we all need right now is comfort food. Forget the diets and resolutions! We're cold. Our throats hurt and our noses are running. Just leaving the house feels like an assault. It is time to eat something hearty and satisfying. We need food that sticks to our ribs or we will never make it through January.
But wait, what if our comfort food could also be healthy? Is that too much to ask? Not at all. One of the most satisfying things a person can eat in weather like this is soup. Hot, steaming bowls of soup with just a hint of heat and lots of ginger to cure what ails us. But soup can also be healthy and a low-calorie way to fill your tummy. Just stick to broth-based soups — not creamy ones — and fill them up with lean protein and veggies. Like this recipe, for example. With a flavorful broth, crunchy vegetables and lean white meat chicken, it has all the flavor and warmth you crave and nothing to feel guilty about.
The key to this soup is the broth. It's sweet, salty and a little spicy all at the same time. It's the kind of broth that you drink straight long after all the meat and vegetables have been eaten. I recommend homemade chicken broth but a good store-bought variety will be just fine, especially because you are going to enhance the flavor with garlic, ginger, chiles and soy sauce.
As for the noodles, I used regular spaghetti because that is what I had in my pantry. (Note to self, stock up on Asian noodles pronto.) If you wanted to make your soup more authentically Asian — or gluten-free — rice vermicelli or buckwheat soba noodles would be an excellent substitution. I also added frozen, store-bought gyoza to my soup for fun, and my family loved it! (I like the chicken and vegetable gyoza from Trader Joe's.) You can obviously skip the gyoza or substitute a different kind of dumpling as you like.
As is my preference, I roasted bone-in chicken breasts and then shredded the meat off the bone to add to the soup. However, you can use leftover chicken or poached chicken breasts if you prefer. If you are adding gyoza to your soup, you could probably skip the chicken altogether.
Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
- 2 bone-in split chicken breasts
- 2 TB vegetable oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 TB honey
- 3 dried red chiles (or pinch red pepper flakes)
- 12 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 red pepper, cut in a julienne
- 2 cups sugar snap or snow peas, strings removed and halved
- 12 oz. dried spaghetti or rice vermicelli
- 12 frozen gyoza (optional)
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 scallions, sliced
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Rub chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast chicken breasts for 45 minutes. Remove from heat. When they are cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and shred it into pieces. Set aside.
- In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat.
- Saute ginger, garlic and red chiles for one minute. Add honey and stir to coat. Saute for a few additional minutes or until fragrant.
- Add chicken broth and soy sauce and bring to a boil.
- When broth is boiling, add noodles and cook until tender, about ten minutes.
- Add shredded chicken, red pepper and peas. Simmer until vegetables are crisp-tender, 3-5 minutes.
- Add frozen gyoza, if using, and cook until heated through.
- Just prior to serving, add lime juice.
- Ladle soup into bowls, distributing gyoza evenly, and garnish with scallions.