As much as I love to cook, I never have time to plan weekday lunches. After a frazzled morning at the desk, trying to get just one more bit of work done, I am ravenous by 1 or 2pm. My lame attempts at breakfast (usually Wheatables and fruit gummies) do not suffice.
I storm out of the building in a mad search for anything edible on the street. Unfortunately, other than mediocre $10 sandwiches and faux-Mexican, there is nothing except Safeway and Whole Foods. So I go for supermarket soup. Soup is filling. Soup is warming. Soup is cheap (well, not at Whole Foods). But sooner or later, you get sick of Chunky Chicken Noodle and Spicy Southwestern Bean. I still craved a piping hot bowl of broth-and-protein in the early afternoon, but needed a change.
This week I decided to add a Chinese take-out touch to chicken noodle soup. And make a big batch on Sunday night. While I still like the hot and sour soup I posted two year ago, this one is much, much more filling. And if you are low on Asian pantry staples like canned bamboo shoots and lily buds, you can still make this. I went to the market and bought chicken breast, mushrooms, and scallions, et voilà.
The “hot” in the soup title usually comes from white pepper, but in this instance, adding chili sesame oil worked perfectly. White vinegar was a little too strong for this soup, but cider vinegar gave it a mellow zing. Nevertheless, use the vinegar sparingly, or be prepared to leave your windows open to air out the kitchen. And might I repeat: make a big batch. Your weekday exhausted and starving self will appreciate it.
This week, at least, I was able spend lunch relaxing with a good book instead of speed-walking to Safeway.
Hot and Sour Chicken Noodle Soup
- 1/2 pound chicken breast, preferably skin on
- 1 handful shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced
- 2 medium-sized shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 tsp chili sesame oil (or 1 tsp sesame oil + 1 tsp chili oil)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 ounces dried vermicelli
- 2 or 3 scallion stalks, chopped
- Heat 1 ounce olive oil a wok or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken breast skin-side down until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the chicken breast over and sauté the other side until fully cooked, another 5 to 6 minutes. You can also put a quarter cup of water in the pan to steam the meat through. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside to let cool.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 ounce olive oil in a medium-sized pot over high heat. Cook the shiitake mushrooms, shallots, and ginger, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and add soy sauce, vinegar, and chili sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste (for extra authenticity points, use white pepper.)
- Meanwhile, slice the chiclen breast (1/2 inch or so thick) after it has cooled.
- Add vermicelli and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in chicken at the last minute to reheat. Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with scallions, and serve.