September 8, 2014

Recipe: Kimchi Noodle Soup



As a long-time nanny, I'm used to battling several rounds of colds each year. It's inevitable when you spend much of your time in the various germ-ridden hangouts of the toddler set - the children's corner of the library with books touched by a million little hands; the playground whose sandboxes may as well be over-sized petri dishes. It was an occupational hazard far-outweighed by the general awesomeness of my job.

My life in New York is presently child-free, so I was unpleasantly surprised when I started feeling under the weather last Sunday. Within 24 hours, both Daniel and I had been attacked by some kind of hideous cold/flu hybrid, a virus so evil I am convinced it was birthed in the depths of hell. The only slightly more likely source? Some unwashed crevice of New York (I'm thinking the subway was involved). Of course, knowing where this beast of a cold came from won't make me feel better. What will make me feel better? Kimchi Noodle Soup.

Think of Kimchi Noodle Soup as turbo-charged Chicken Noodle Soup… minus the chicken. Kimchi's spice and ferment-y funk permeate the broth with a sinus-clearing blast of heat that's as effective as it is delicious. Kimchi Noodle Soup will punch your cold in the face and then laugh at it. Each spoonful is a pleasant little fire that wafts into your sinuses, locates the congestion, and SMOKES IT OUT.

Honestly, I'd love this soup even if it didn't have cold-punching powers. It's an exceptionally full-flavored and umami-rich soup, simple to make and satisfying to eat. It's also a great introduction to kimchi for the uninitiated, since its pungency is mellowed by the broth and balanced with a bit of sweetness from carrots, shallots, and a splash of mirin (sweet rice wine). To sum it up: Have a cold? Make this soup. Perfectly healthy? MAKE THIS SOUP.

Kimchi Noodle Soup
Serves 4

Kimchi is a spicy Korean side dish/condiment of fermented cabbage and various other vegetables. When shopping for vegan kimchi, you'll want to avoid brands that include fish sauce in the ingredient list. My favorite vegan kimchi brands are Mother In Law's Vegan Napa Cabbage Kimchi and Britt's Pickles Market Kimchi.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large carrots, chopped
2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
1 heaping cup vegan napa cabbage kimchi, drained and chopped, plus 2 tablespoons kimchi liquid
2 tablespoons mirin
4 cups vegetable broth (I use 4 cups water plus 2 teaspoons "No Chicken" Better Than Bouillon paste)
2 cups water
4 ounces eggless wide ribbon noodles*
Salt, to taste

*Eggless Wide Ribbon Noodles are an egg-free version of classic Egg Noodles, and can be found in many supermarkets. Alternatively, rotini or fusilli pasta will work well.

Bring a large pot over medium heat and saute carrots and shallots in oil for 5 minutes, then add chopped kimchi and saute 5 minutes more. Add mirin and 2 tablespoons kimchi liquid and cook for a couple minutes before adding broth and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then add pasta. Partially cover, reduce heat to maintain a low boil (around medium), and cook until noodles are done and carrots are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Season as needed with salt and serve steaming hot. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days, though the texture of the noodles is best the day the soup is made (the noodles continue to soak up the broth during their time in the fridge). When reheating, you might want to add a bit of extra water to offset the broth absorbed by the noodles.

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