After a canceled transcontinental flight on Sunday, I found myself on a red eye back to New York on Monday night. It was, in true contemporary travel fashion, a less than satisfactory experience. A total disregard of the appropriate size for a carry-on by 75% of my fellow passengers meant that my tiny box of china teacups that my mom had sent me home with was on the opposite side of the airplane from my seat, a small child slept on me most the way across the country and my train from the airport was 20 minutes late.
To add insult to injury, I had forgotten my gloves (who needs them in California?) so my normally short, easy walk from the PATH station to my building became an exercise in fortitude. The digital sign on Century 21 flashed 14 degrees, which I guess explained my intense misery. By the time I made it to my apartment I was quite literally whimpering. My fingers were totally numb and yet somehow hurt (the tips still do...does that mean I have frostbite?), my shower was lukewarm and then I had to go to work!
So suffice to say my day was not great, and all I wanted for dinner at the end of it was something warm, nourishing and easy. As I wandered around the market across the street from my office, I recalled an asian style noodle soup that I had practically lived on in grad school. Cheap, quick and soul satisfying...it was exactly what my day called for.
You can get about half of the ingredients from your pantry:
And the other half from a very basic grocery store:
My sad little Blackberry photo shows more steam than soup, but perhaps you can at least get a sense of how wonderfully cozy this dish is. It most certainly did the job for me.
Quick Asian Noodle Soup
2 cups water or unsalted chicken stock
2 tablespoons instant liquid dashi (you can get this at Asian grocery stores, omit if using chicken stock)
1 1/2 teaspoons black vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce (I used low sodium, if you use regular you may want to reduce this amount a bit)
1 chicken thigh, skin and bone removed, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
bundle of rice vermicelli sticks, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter (udon and soba noodles are also wonderful)
1/2 zucchini, sliced (or substitute snow peas)
handful of baby spinach
Bring water or chicken stock to a boil. Add dashi (if using), vinegar and soy sauce. If using udon or soba noodles, add here and cook for about three minutes. Add mushrooms, and let cook for one minute. Then add chicken, and let cook for another minute or two, then , if using, add rice vermicelli, stirring to submerge the noodles. Cook until vermicelli is just underdone (it will continue to cook after you take the soup off of the heat), add the zucchini and cook for fifteen seconds or so. Pour into a massive bowl, anoint with a bit of sesame oil or sesame seeds and enjoy on the couch in front of some trashy reality TV.