This soup is beautiful. I don’t think there is another word for it. Clean, fresh, refreshing . . . those come close. I think it’s the combination of the aromatic, zingy ginger and the gentle but persistent heat of the chili flakes and green onions butting up against the fresh veggies and cilantro, the substantial Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Egg Noodles, and lots of good-quality vegetable broth. The slices of sirloin steak on top are an enticing contrast, more of a tasty garnish than the main event. I think if you took any one piece of the equation away, it might all fall apart.
I know it might seem a little odd to use egg noodles in this soup; maybe you were expecting rice noodles, like a vietnamese pho. But I think white rice noodles are just filler. The combination of whole wheat and a touch of egg add just the right amount of body to the soup, which doesn’t otherwise have a lot of fat. I love biting into the soft noodles along with a slightly crisp carrot or slice of squash. These noodles are just as good in this slightly exotic dish as they are in a comforting chicken noodle soup.
I really love that this Asian-style soup uses relatively “normal” ingredients – there’s nothing you need to hunt down in an Asian market. I know I’ve been intimidated before by Asian recipes with ingredient lists as long as my arm. Honestly, the fresh ginger root and bok choy were the most difficult to procure. I was able to find everything else I needed already in my cabinets or in the produce section. And that is a beautiful thing. (I hope you have similar luck.)
If you can’t find bok choy, don’t despair. (This recipe was on hold for two weeks when I couldn’t find any anywhere, so I know the feeling.) Baby bok choy has a wonderful, delicate flavor, like a tender, mild cabbage, but it’s not irreplaceable. You could substitute napa cabbage, or in a pinch, broccoli florets, Swiss chard, or beet greens.
On a warm, spring day (let’s get real, we’re almost into the summer now) there’s not much better than devouring chunks of fresh veggies and noodles and slurping down the light, slightly spicy broth. It’s a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach, light and satisfying, bright and filling.
I couldn’t resist including a picture of the bowl of veggies and noodles before arranging the slices of steak on top.
Isn’t it beautiful?
I can impart two major recommendations for this recipe — the first is to use the highest quality ingredients you can afford. Really, really high-quality ingredients — especially the steak. There’s no getting around it; if the meat isn’t good-quality, you’re going to be disappointed. And the veggies are front and center, with very little seasoning to hide behind, so they should be as fresh as you can get (or good-quality frozen if fresh just isn’t available). Of course I recommend Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Egg Noodles for best results.
The second recommendation is to wash your bok choy really well — dirt likes to hide around and under the outer leaves. Gritty dirt in the soup pretty much ruins that clean, refreshing taste we’re going for here. Tear off as many leaves as you need to in order to get all the dirt out. You can chop off the dirty leaf bases and add the clean leaf tops to the broth.
Last but not least, because I believe in giving you recipe options, this soup can also work with Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Spaghetti or Gluten Free Spaghetti. I personally didn’t like the result when I cooked the gluten-free spaghetti in the broth — the flax seed in the pasta thickens the broth a little. I recommend cooking the noodles separately and adding them to the soup just before serving. The gluten-free noodles don’t hold together as well during extended storage as the egg noodles, so I suggest storing the cooked gluten-free noodles separately and adding them to the reheated broth right before serving.
What do you think? Beautiful soup? Have I tempted you to give it a try?
Asian Chili Beef Noodle Soup
Adapted, just slightly, from BBC Good Food Chili Beef Noodles
5 cups vegetable broth
¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
6-10 slices ginger root
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
¼-½ cup carrots, sliced thin
¼-½ cup yellow squash, sliced thin
3-4 medium heads baby bok choy, washed and quartered
1 ½ cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Egg Noodles
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 sirloin steak, 8-12 ounces, well trimmed of fat
Optional: bean sprouts, extra green onions, chopped cilantro/Thai basil for serving
Heat vegetable broth, ginger, chili, and spring onions in large pot until brought to a low boil (5-10 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat a griddle pan and brush steak with vegetable oil. Griddle the steak for 2 minutes on each side for medium rare, or 3-4 minutes on each side for well done. (Steak will cook a bit more when added to hot broth, so if in doubt, leave it a little rare). Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for 1 minute, then slice into thin strips.
Add the carrots, squash, and bok choy to the boiling stock, then the noodles. Bring to a low boil, and simmer 3-5 minutes or until all ingredients are tender.
Ladle the soup into large bowls and top with a few slices of steak.
Serve with chopped cilantro, more sliced green onion, raw bean sprouts and Thai basil leaves, if desired.
Notes: Makes 3-4 servings. Best served immediately, but also keeps 1-2 days stored in sealed container in refrigerator and reheated (or served cold). Store steak slices separately from broth for best results—when reserving, reheat broth, and then set cold steak slices on top to prevent overcooking the meat.