Spicy Soup Noodles

by Danielle Charles

Hello, my darling readers. Hope you’ve been well?  Here on the East coast, we’re enjoying the first of the season’s snowfall – everything dusted in white, with those last little hints of yellows and rusts peaking through. I’ve been enjoying the snugness of it all, the quiet, that blissfully cozy feeling one gets seeing the snow falling through the window. Mostly, though,  I’m just enjoying being somewhere other than in bed,  after being down all week with the most horrible flu bug known to humanity.

It all started Tuesday with a little sniffle and a scratch in my throat. I took my Echinacea, had some tea and went to bed early, like a good girl. Skip ahead to 3:30 that morning, where you find me shivering so badly that my teeth are actually chattering in my head, tossing back and forth, and moaning incoherently. This was just the beginning.  Soon after, the nausea set in, followed by the inevitable next step in this sequence. When that was over, the full on body ache began. I never got out of bed that day once, if you can believe it.

The worst thing about this flu, was that at the end of the day, I’d start to feel better. I’d think, “hey I bet tomorrow I’ll be able to go back to work.” But this flu had other things in mind. Each day, I’d awake with some horrible new affliction – completely different from what I’d suffered the day before, but just as awful. From nausea, aches and pains and chills, I went to can’t even swallow it hurts so bad sore throat. Then came the runny nose, the cough, the feeling as though my head was several hundred feet below sea level. And finally, just to really go out with a bang, I woke up on Friday with pink eye. Yes, pink eye. 

Today  I’m just happy to being sitting up, feeling mostly normal, able to see and not looking like the living dead. The snow is an added bonus to all of this, so I’m feeling pretty spoiled at the moment. Goodness,  it’s nice not to feel awful!

Anyhow, when my appetite came back this morning (and with a vengeance, I might add), I had visions of noodle soup fill my head. Back when I lived in Seattle, there was the most delicious little Asian restaurant down the street from us, The Teapot Vegetarian House. They had a dish called  “soup noodles” – which was more or less like chicken noodle soup (sans the chicken) with a spicy Asian flair to it. Soooo good. Whenever I was sick, I’d crawl out of bed and drag myself there in rain or shine, and I think this soup saved my life many a time.

So, naturally, whenever I find myself under the weather, I crave those noodles like you wouldn’t believe. But having no Teapot round the corner to go to, I’ve had to figure out how to make my own. It isn’t hard to do at all, just requires some chopping, some boiling of water, and you’re done. But I tell you, once you’ve got a little of this inside you, you know you’re on the road to recovery.

Before I share my recipe with you, however, I just want to share a few of my strategies for getting better quick – as they are so fresh in my mind!  This is just a quick summary, and if you’d like to read more  detail, or learn more tips about surviving cold and flu season, I’d suggest you visit my post on the matter: fending of winter illness. In short, here are my tips:

  • Drink as much fluid as you can, preferably hot. Hot water with lemon; a vegetable or meat stock with a little miso; your favorite cold and flu tea. The body gets dehydrated easily due to higher body temperatures, so replenishing those fluids is paramount, as is replenishing electrolytes and nutrients. The extra fluids help to remove waste products from the body as well, boosting your recovery rate. (I make a tea called Breathe which I drink gallons of this time of year.)
  • Take hot baths (or showers). Baths are nice in a variety of ways when your feeling less than great – they warm the body and facilitate the immune system; enhance circulation – helping to relax stiff, achy muscles; support lymphatic movement which helps to clean up the site of infection; and the hot steam helps to break through congestion and soothe irritation. A nice hot bath is also just the thing for promoting my next tip.
  • Sleep. Your immune system works far better when you’re asleep than when awake. So if you feel drowsy, don’t fight it. Tuck yourself in and rest away, and you’ll be going a long way towards helping your body recover.
  • Eat soup. There simply isn’t any better food for when you’re unwell. Fluid, soothing warmth and nourishment all in one. Everybody feels better after a bowl of soup. (But no cream soups here – stick to brothy soups loaded with vegetables and small amounts of protein from meat or legumes). 

 Spicy Soup Noodles

As a note, you’ll want to keep any left over noodles separate from your soup. Otherwise, they will get mushy when you reheat.  By all means, eat this also when you’re feeling well, especially on a chilly day.  Serves 2-4, depending on portion sizes. 

  • 1 package soba or udon noodles (I used buckwheat soba)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 -3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (or to taste)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced (or to taste)
  • 1 hot red chile pepper, deseeded and minced (or 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chile flakes)
  • 1 bunch scallions, ends trimmed off and sliced on the diagonal into thin strips
  • 8 – 10 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium or 2 small carrots, either thinly sliced or cut into matchsticks
  • 1 medium head of pok choi, sliced into thin shreds
  • 1/4 head of green cabbage, sliced into thin shreds
  • 6 oz tofu, lightly pan-fried or leftover chicken or pork, shredded (optional)
  • 1 quart of stock: vegetable, chicken or beef
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

To serve (optional):

  • Lime wedges
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Soy sauce
  • more fresh scallions or sliced red chile

Place a pot of water on high heat for the noodles. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium sauce pan and then add your garlic, ginger and chile pepper. Stir frequently to prevent sticking, for about 1 minute, then add the scallions and heat for a minute more. Add the carrots, mushrooms and stock, and bring to  a boil before reducing to a gentle simmer. Simmer for no more than 10 minutes, then add the greens and soy sauce and taste for flavor. 

Cook the noodles according to package instructions, then drain and rinse under cool water.  Place a heap of noodles into each bowl, top with a good ladleful of soup, making sure you get plenty of broth and veg, and serve with whatever toppings you choose.