Hot and sour chicken noodle soup

So, we all love comforting chicken soup- it’s such a classic and cures all ills. Well this is my twist on chicken noodle soup which is packed full of flavour and has taken inspiration from Chinese hot and sour soup. Hot and sour soup is exactly as it sounds- a combination of hot and sour ingredients which give a balanced finish.

I have used leftover roast chicken for this recipe and the dark meat from a chicken is best to use if you can as this is more tender and have most taste. You can also use pork, mixed vegetables or even tofu for this if you prefer. As with a lot of Asian cooking, make sure you everything prepped as it won’t take long once you get going!

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 garlic cloves- roughly chopped
1 red chilli (as hot as you dare!)- roughly chopped
3cm piece of ginger- grated
Pinch of salt
100g bundle of fine rice noodles
Groundnut or vegetable oil
100g shitake mushrooms
2-3 spring onions- chopped
1 1/2 tbsp dark soy and 1 1/2 tbsp light soy
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 rice wine
1 head of pak choi- stems finely chopped and leaves shredded
2 chicken legs- cooked and meat removed from the bone
450ml good quality hot chicken stock
1 large egg- beaten

1. Start off by making the paste which forms the base of the soup. Simply grind the garlic, chilli and ginger in a pestle and mortar. Add a pinch of salt to help form the paste and set aside.

2. Bring a pan of water to a boil and cook the noodles until tender- this is usually 2-3 minutes depending on the noodles you use so remember to check the packet instructions. Drain well and run under cold water; this stops the cooking process and stop them sticking together as they cool.

3. Take a large pan which is going to be able to fit the stock and chicken in. Add a glug of oil over a medium heat and cook the paste for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms, spring onions and chopped stems of the pak choi. Pour in both types of soy, the rice wine vinegar and rice wine and cook for a further minute. Shred the chicken meat into smaller bite sized pieces and add to the pan; coat in the paste and sauce.

4. Next up goes the hot stock so carefully pour this into the pan; it is important that it is already hot before being added to the pan so don’t miss this out. Bring the stock to a gentle boil and leave for around 10 minutes until slightly reduced and the chicken is warmed through. Remember to taste as you go and adjust with more soy or vinegar to suit your tastes. Now for the fun bit! Hot and sour soup has egg which look like little strands of ribbon. To do this, take a chopstick and swirl the stock until a whirlpool forms. Gradually add in the whisked egg and keep the stock moving; you will see the egg cooking before your very eyes and dispersing- that’s all there is to it!

5. When you are ready to serve, divide the noodles between two deep bowls before serving the soup on top. The soup will heat the noodles again. Add the pak choi leaves to the soup at the last minute. Top with a little extra sliced chilli if you like and grab a spoon!

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Crispy tofu dandan noodles

Now, all you need to know about Sichuan dandan noodles is that they’re blooming delicious and so simple to make! Dandan often uses meat such as pork mince however, after a meat heavy Christmas season, I have decided to lighten this up and use tofu. These noodles are also packed with other vegetables such as shitake mushroom, which give a wonderfully meaty taste and don’t compromise on flavour. Balance this with the savouriness of Tianjin preserved vegetables and you have a dish to die for! Preserved vegetables may sound strange but, believe me, they are divine. They add a wonderfully salty and garlicky taste that is hard to replicate.

I have cooked my tofu in an unusual way by crumbling it into smaller pieces that resemble mince; frying crumbled tofu adds a crunch to the dish which balances the texture of the vegetables perfectly. Use a firm tofu and, if you haven’t had it before, it is a good introduction to it. Sichuan peppercorns are also called for; you can find these in Chinese supermarkets and add a mouth tingling finish. The taste is completely different to the heat that a chilli provides so it is worth finding these.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp Chinese chilli oil
1/2 tbsp sesame oil or tahini
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
200g firm tofu
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetables
200g shitake mushrooms- roughly chopped
2-3 spring onions- chopped
1 head of pak choi- leaves shredded and stalk chopped
200g rice or egg noodles

1. Start by making the sauce that also provides the base for the dish. The Sichuan peppercorns need to be toasted; to do this, take a small frying pan and heat to medium, warm the peppercorns until they start releasing their fragrance. Remove from the heat and grind in a pestle and mortar before setting aside. Combine both types of soy sauce, the chilli oil and sesame or tahini. A word of caution: Chinese chilli oil can be rather warm on the old tongue so I always give mine a quick taste and adjust to my liking. Dandan noodles are meant to have a bit of kick!

2. To prepare the tofu, remove from the packet and drain off any excess water it comes in. Pat dry thoroughly between pieces of kitchen roll. Crumble the tofu into small pieces and sprinkle over the cornflour; this will help the tofu to crisp up. If you find your tofu is particularly moist, then you can add a touch more flour. At this stage, add half of the ground peppercorns and toss through the tofu. Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the tofu; cook over a medium heat until the tofu is crisp and golden. This may take around 10 minutes so give it a stir from time to time as you move onto the next step.

3. Boil a pan of water and cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Take a wok and add a glug of flavourless oil such as groundnut or vegetable oil over a medium heat. Add the remaining peppercorns, preserved vegetables and half of the sauce. Throw in the mushrooms, spring onion and the chopped stalks of the pak choi and cook for a minute or two.

4. Drain the noodles well and add bit by bit to the wok. I added a small amount at a time and then added another bit of sauce with each addition of the noodles to minimise the risk of them clumping together. Pop in the pak choi leaves and stir fry until the vegetables are cooked through and the noodles are warmed. The sauce should lightly coat the strands of noodle. Serve immediately in warmed bowls and divide the crisped tofu and sprinkle on top of the noodles.

Crispy tofu dandan noodles- a new way to use tofu for the New Year!