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Recipe: Pork noodle soup is pulled from the pantry

I pride myself on creating pantry- staple-focused recipes, vague road maps that you can tweak and shuffle based on what you’ve already got. My robust, if not chaotic, kitchen reflects that, meaning I can always make dinner even if I haven’t been shopping in ages.

When it comes to cooking, I am my most flexible self — it’s the only way to keep recipes truly unfussy and accessible, my two goals. This pork noodle soup is a great poster child for those principles: It’s made from basic ingredients you most likely have on hand, and for those you don’t, you can be a little flexible, I promise.

It starts with toasting several cloves of sliced garlic, which not only provide excellent crunchy texture, but also flavor the oil that cooks the ground pork (you could easily use chicken or turkey), which then spiffs up the store-bought chicken broth. (Vegetable broth works great, too.) From there, it’s seasoned with soy sauce for saltiness and red-pepper flakes or some other dried chili for the heat that I always crave, especially in a noodle soup.

From there, it’s a true “Choose Your Own Adventure.” For greens, chopped spinach leaves, torn Swiss chard, kale or mustard greens would all wilt down acceptably. I would even say that, if you had delicate broccoli (aka broccolini) on hand, it would be great, too.

As for the noodles, whatever you choose will honestly be great, I just ask that you cook them separately (to al dente, please) in a pot of salted water as to not alter the flavor the broth. Rice vermicelli (my choice), dried ramen, soba, udon or even your favorite pasta shape all get my blessing.

But here’s where I become inflexible — the raw onion experience, added to the hot broth at the last minute, as well as scattered on top, may not excite everyone, but trust me when I tell you that is the one and only nonnegotiable. Inspired by the zillion bowls of pho I have consumed in my lifetime, I add raw onion to give the broth a strong savoriness, a unique flavor that tricks your brain into thinking you just cooked something very complicated for a very long time. Without the thinly sliced rings at the end, the soup is … good. With them, it’s spectacular.

Use a yellow, white or red onion. Use scallions. By all means, use a shallot! It breaks my heart to say that if eating raw onions is not something you enjoy, you may want to skip this particular recipe. Otherwise, I encourage you to go forth and be your most flexible self, too.

PORK NOODLE SOUP WITH GINGER AND TOASTED GARLIC

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large bunch spinach, thick stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 medium red, yellow or white onion or 3 scallions, thinly sliced, divided
  • 6 ounces rice noodles (thick- or thin-cut), cooked and drained
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until slices are nicely toasted and golden, 2 or 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add pork and red-pepper flakes to pot; season with salt and pepper. Cook, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break up large pieces, until pork is well browned and in small bite-size pieces, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add chicken broth, soy sauce and water. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 to 8 minutes, until pork is very tender and broth tastes impossibly good. (Give it a taste and add more salt, pepper, red-pepper flakes and/or soy sauce, if you want.) Add spinach, half the onion slices and all the ginger. Stir to wilt leaves.

To serve, ladle soup over noodles, then top each bowl with remaining onion slices, cilantro and toasted garlic. Serves 4 to 6.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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