Use the base of this soup – a fresh but surprisingly tasty stock – for quick Asian-inspired soups (just add your favourite leafy greens and noodles). Starting the soup with a good unsalted stock is essential.
250ml (about 9 fluid ounces) unsalted chicken stock 1 litre (about US 2 pints/UK 1¾ pints) water 6 spring onions (scallions/green onions) 2 hottish red chillies 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 1 Tbsp peeled, coarsely chopped ginger Bunch of coriander (cilantro) 2 skinned and boned free-range chicken breasts 200g (about 7 ounces) Hokkien noodles ½ tsp salt 1½ Tbsp soy sauce 1 cup cubed tofu Peanut oil 6 leaves wong bok, left whole if small, or chopped, or a combination
1 Put chicken stock and water in a saucepan. Roughly chop 3 of the spring onions and add, along with 1 chopped chilli, garlic, ginger and coriander stems (reserve leaves). Slowly bring to a gentle boil – this will extract more flavour than quickly bringing to a boil– then turn heat to lowest setting, cover pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes; it should not bubble. Turn off the heat and leave stock to infuse for 5-15 minutes while preparing other ingredients.
2 Remove all fat from chicken, rinse and pat dry. Cut chicken into strips of a similar thickness – to do this, cut off the thinner strips (tenderloins) first, cut breasts in half horizontally and then cut the two fatter pieces through the middle. Cut remaining spring onions and chilli into slivers and set aside. Put noodles in a colander and rinse well under running water.
3 Strain stock into a bowl then return it to the pan, adding ½ teaspoon salt. Bring it back up to a very gentle bubble (turn to the lowest setting), add soy sauce and chicken. Poach for 5-6 minutes, until chicken is just cooked through (poaching means the water is rippling, not bubbling; to check if the chicken is cooked, remove the fattest piece from the stock and slice in the middle – there should be the merest hint of a blush). Transfer chicken to a board with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
4 Meanwhile, fry tofu in a little peanut oil in a small pan until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
5 Add Hokkien noodles to hot stock and heat through for 2 minutes. Add wong bok and cook for about 2 minutes, until crisp-tender but don’t let it get soft. Slice chicken and add to soup along with tofu and coriander leaves. Dish into bowls and garnish with chilli and spring onion.
Wong bok is like a cross between an elongated cabbage and a large cos (romaine) lettuce and has fleshy, white stems and crinkly leaves. It can be used raw in salads (use the tender middle leaves for this), or cooked quickly in various ways such as stir-frying, or added to soups.
Take time to remove all the fat from the chicken, or it will create a fatty film on top of the finished soup.
Yes, the soup is called Hokkien noodle soup, but by all means, substitute other noodles.
Photography Julie Biuso