Thursday, February 20, 2014

Spicy Pork Rice Noodle Soup with Kale


We’re digging the “healthy” recipes from the January 2014 issue of Bon Appetit.  It seems like just about every one of these has been a winner.  It’s been a while since we’ve wanted to attempt so many new recipes from a cooking magazine, but these recipes—grouped in the issue as “the new healthy”—have been absolutely terrific.

Different bean dishes (both cannellini and red bean) have been staples for our new Asian-style breakfasts, along with organic short grain brown rice.  Two fish entrées have already been added to our repertoire.  And now a Vietnamese-inspired rice noodle soup with spicy pork and mustard greens is our latest infatuation.

This soup was on the cover of the Bon Appetit issue, and we kept on meaning to try it out.  But we also kept on missing one or another key ingredient.  When we had ground pork, we had no greens.  Then we bought rice noodles only to discover that we didn’t have any Szechuan peppercorns at home after all.

I decided to take the plunge anyway.  After all, I had a bunch of kale that was starting to go yellow in parts and which I wanted to use up as soon as possible.  I had purchased a pound of ground pork which I had split up into a package of ½ lb (for this soup), and two ¼ lb packages (one for mabo tofu and another for spicy stir-fried green beans with minced/ground pork). 

So I defrosted the pork, tore up the kale leaves, and decided to forego Szechuan peppercorns the recipe called for.  Besides, I rationalized, not only is it important to improvise, but we aren’t really even big fans of Szechuan peppercorns.  (We used it before in a coffee-and-spices crusted ribeye with caramelized onion jam.  Another post!)  Anyway, here’s a link to the original soup recipe.

Essentially, I mixed ground pork with cumin, garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper, and Korean red pepper flakes.  I substituted ½ teaspoon of the Korean red pepper flakes in the place of 1 teaspoon crushed Szechuan peppercorns originally called for, and I wonder whether that produced a possibly spicier soup than intended.  Never mind.  We loved it.


You brown the pork, add chicken broth, and let simmer for a bit before adding torn greens (kale in our case, mustard greens in the recipe), sliced scallions, soy sauce and fish sauce.  Simmer some more.  Then you cook rice noodles.  We used the small size, and I suspect medium would be great.  The recipe calls for “wide rice noodles,” but honestly the picture doesn’t seem to reflect that…

I like to withhold some scallions to throw on top of the cooked noodles before ladling the soup mixture.  Or throw in the scallions afterwards.  In any case, I’ve always enjoyed some thinly-sliced scallions on top of Asian-flavored soups.  It’s sort of like cilantro in Latin cooking, basil in Italian cooking, and parsley in most anything.  The little bit of fresh herby-ness adds a certain je ne sais quoi.



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