Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pork Noodle Soup

Oof, the internet is slow today. Anyway, when I was a kid (well, up to my teens) the only fast food we ate was Chinese. Okay, maybe once every few months we'd order a pizza or some subs, but at least once every two weeks (or more) we'd order from China Taste or China #1 or something like that. I suppose the main reason is that there  no other foreign fast food restaurants in Upper Marlboro, no Thai or Vietnamese or Ethiopian - I am pretty sure there still aren't and may never be - but also because we loved Chinese food. I've tried to make some dishes in my day but they also seem like they're missing something - probably MSG.

So I was looking around on Epicurious for something Asian-y and "pork noodle soup" sang out to me. It has all the flavor that heretofore had escaped my attempts. I made it more labor-intensive by using ham hocks (which are only slightly more frustrating to de-bone when cooked than raw) and straining the stock, but it is essentially an easy recipe, with most of the time cooking spent in passive time - that is, stiff is cooking but you don't need to do anything. I had to salt at the end (shocking to me considering the amount of stock and soy sauce used) but otherwise the recipe if delicious as is. Make it, enjoy, slurp it all up. 's good.

Pork Noodle Soup
Originally Pork Noodle Soup with Cinnamon and Anise, from Gourmet

2 1/2lbs country-style pork ribs OR 2 ham hocks OR 2 1/2lbs pork belly
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
2/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup Chinese Shaoxing wine or medium-dry Sherry  OR 2tbsp sherry vinegar plus 1tbsp fish sauce
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
3 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 whole star anise
10 black peppercorns
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 dried chili (I used a Kashmiri chili because it's what I have on hand, but feel free to go for more heat)
1 bunch spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

5 1/2 ounces bean thread (cellophane) noodles

Chopped cilantro
Sliced scallions
Chili paste or sauce

1. Put the garlic, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, ginger and chili in a square of cheesecloth and tie into a bag. Place water, stock, pork and spice bag into large pot and simmer gently for 1 1/2-2 hours, until pork is tender and falling off the bone. Skim fat off top of water if necessary.

2. Remove pork and discard spice bag. Shred or chop pork meat (whichever is easier) and set aside. In another large pot brown garlic (you may need to add a dash of oil for this) and slightly cook down spinach. Add pork meat and broth; simmer gently for a few minutes.

3. Soak noodles in hot for five minutes or until soft. To serve, place desired amount of noodles in bowl, then add soup. Top with cilantro, scallions and chili.

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