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                                Toasted garlic is added to a pork noodle soup that has already been plated.


    Toasted garlic is added to a pork noodle soup that has already been plated.

                                Lemony white bean soup with turkey and greens.


    Lemony white bean soup with turkey and greens.

Choose your own adventure with garlicky noodle brew

By Alison Roman

New York Times

I pride myself on recipes focused on pantry staples, vague road maps that you can tweak and shuffle based on what you’ve already got — yes, you can use red onions in that shallot pasta — bolstered by vegetables or meat, if you like.

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 (and that’s about it), 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 they 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 — or tamari! — for saltiness and red-pepper flakes or some other dried chile for the heat that I always crave, especially in a noodle soup.

And then, it’s a true “choose your own adventure.” I can usually find fresh pea leaves in Chinatown, but if they’re hard for you to locate, baby spinach or 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, I am also very generous and flexible. Whatever type you choose will honestly be great, I just ask that you cook them separately (to al dente, please) in a pot of salted water so as to not cloud or alter the flavor of 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 find the raw onion gives 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 neutral oil, such as grapeseed, vegetable or canola
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari, plus more to taste
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large bunch pea leaves or spinach, thick stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger (from about a 1-1/2 inch piece)
  • 1/2 medium red, yellow or white onion or 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces rice noodles (thick- or thin-cut), cooked and drained
  • 1 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems, coarsely chopped

Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until slices become nicely toasted and golden brown, 2 or 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove garlic 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 or so, until pork is very tender and broth tastes impossibly good. (Give it a taste and season with salt, pepper, red-pepper flakes and soy sauce, if you want.)

Add pea leaves, half the onion slices, and all the ginger. Stir to wilt leaves.

Ladle soup over noodles and top with remaining onion, cilantro and toasted garlic. Serves 4 to 6.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Spicy white bean soup becomes a poem in a pot

By Melissa Clark

New York Times

When ground meat is in the fridge and beans in the pantry, dinner almost cooks itself into a big pot of chili, the ingredients simmering together as if they had wills of their own. I make chili so often that not making it when everything is on hand feels like a betrayal of the muscle memory I’ve built up over many tomato-splattered years.

But as much as I adore a spicy bowl of chili, on some nights I would rather have soup. Especially when I have a bright, vegetable-focused soup on my mind, one filled with white beans and winter greens, spiked with ginger and red-pepper flakes, and rounded out with only a little ground turkey.

A soup like this is sharp and lemony where chili is deep and fiery; brothy and pale instead of ruddy and thick. But it is piquant, cozy and hearty in exactly the same satisfying way. And, because it doesn’t need to simmer so long to meld the flavors, it is a lot quicker, too.

Like chili, this soup is supremely adaptable to whatever ground meat, beans and greens you have. You can even mix and match, adding a can of white beans and a can of chickpeas if that is what is on the shelf. You can use ground chicken, pork, beef or vegan meat instead of turkey. And any greens, from tender spinach to sturdy collards, will find a happy place in the pot.

Your choice of greens may require some simple, intuitive finessing. Thicker greens (collards, kale, cabbage) need longer to cook than delicate spinach. If the broth condenses too much while the greens simmer, add a little water to thin it out. Or then again, maybe a thicker broth is what you are craving. Aid your cause by smashing some of the beans so they release their starch. This makes the broth silky and rich.

Thick or thin, make sure to finish the soup with loads of fresh lemon juice. Add it to taste, and stop only when the broth has a lively zing that cuts through the plushiness of the beans.

Lemony White Bean Soup With Turkey and Greens

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 bunch sturdy greens, such as kale, broccoli raab, mustard greens or collard greens
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh, soft herbs, such as parsley, mint, dill, basil, tarragon, chives or a combination
  • Fresh lemon juice, to taste

Heat a large pot over medium-high for a minute or so to warm it up. Add oil and heat until it thins out, about 30 seconds. Add onion and carrot; saute until very soft and brown at edges, 7 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse greens and pull leaves off stems. Tear or chop into bite-size pieces; set aside.

When onion is golden, add tomato paste, cumin and red-pepper flakes to pot; saute until paste darkens, about 1 minute. Add turkey, garlic, ginger and salt; saute, breaking up meat with a spoon, until turkey is browned in spots, 4 to 7 minutes.

Add stock and beans; bring to simmer. Let simmer until soup is thick and flavorful, adding more salt if needed, 15 to 25 minutes. For a thicker broth, smash some of the beans with the back of the spoon to release their starch. Leave beans whole for a brothier soup.

Add greens; simmer until very soft, 5 to 10 minutes for most greens, but tough collard greens might take 15 minutes. (Add a little water if broth gets too reduced.)

Stir herbs and lemon juice into pot, taste and add more salt, cumin and lemon until broth is lively and bright-tasting. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil and more red-pepper flakes, if desired. Serves 4.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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