Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ar's Taiwanese-Style Noodle Soup with Braised Pork Belly

This one's totally my invention. It's based on my memories of the types of noodle soups that my mom and grandmother would make at home, and the plethora of soups you could get from street vendors in Taipei. The soup is chicken stock-based, and infused with the flavor of fried shallots & a touch of sesame oil. "Krab" is fake crab meat made from White Pollock. It sometimes gets a bad rap for being imitation, but I think it's a great-tasting, affordable, and extremely versatile product. It's my secret ingredient for this soup and is also something I like to add to gumbo (ok, you purists - don't knock it until you've actually tried it!). This recipe easily makes 6-8 servings.

8 quarts (32 cups) water
8 tbsp. Totole chicken powder (or substitute with 8 quarts low-sodium chicken broth)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
4-5 scallions, chopped
1 cup fried shallots
2 8-oz packages imitation crab meat, flake-style (optional)
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tbsp. sesame oil
Sliced soy-braised pork belly* (or substitute with your fav meat, like roast chicken)
6-8 Baby bok choy, halved or quartered (depending on size)
Chopped fresh scallion & cilantro, for garnish
Fresh Taiwanese noodles (or substitute with linguine, fettuccine, whatever noodle you like)

*Recipe for braised pork belly (these can be made ahead and frozen for later use): 

1. In a large stock pan, add 8 quarts of water, chicken base, 1/2 bunch chopped cilantro, 4-5 chopped scallions, 1 cup fried shallots, 1 pkg. of imitation crab (optional), white pepper and sesame oil, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours until broth is reduced by half. 

2. Blanch halved/quartered bok choy in the soup stock with a strainer about 20-30 seconds. If pork belly is cold or recently defrosted, slice and also blanch in the soup stock for about 20-30 seconds. Remove both to bowl and set aside.

3. Bring a medium pot of water to boil; add fresh noodles and cook 3-5 minutes (add a couple tsp. of vegetable oil to the water to prevent it from boiling over). When al dente, pour noodles into a colander and toss with 1 tsp. of vegetable oil to keep them from sticking together. 

4. To serve: Place noodles in a bowl, top with sliced pork belly, blanched bok choy, scallions, cilantro, and pour soup over. Sprinkle with additional white pepper and/or sesame oil if desired.

Add 8 tbsp. Totole chicken powder to 8 quarts of water (or substitute with 8 qts. low sodium chicken broth).

Add 1 cup fried shallots (available in most Chinese markets, or you can slice a bunch of shallots and saute them in some vegetable over medium heat until very well cooked).

The label says "fried onions", but they're really fried shallots. Totole is my fav brand of chicken base.

1/2 bunch of cilantro and 4-5 scallions.

Chopped up.

Add chopped cilantro and scallions to the soup.

Use 2 8-oz. packages of imitation crab.

Add the "crab" to the soup.

Add 1 tbsp. sesame oil.

Add 1 tsp. white pepper.

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until stock is reduced by half.

Here's the stock, reduced by half.

Braised pork belly slices.

Wash & cut bok choy into halves or quarters (depending on size).

Blanch bok choy 20-30 seconds in the stock until barely tender (do the same with the sliced pork belly if it is cold or recently defrosted).

Drain & remove bok choy (and pork belly slices); set aside. Cover to keep warm.

Fresh Taiwanese noodles. Got these from 99 Ranch Market. These are fresh and basically made from wheat flour and water. They keep well in the freezer.

Cook in boiling water about 5 minutes or until al dente (add 1-2 tsp. of vegetable oil to the cooking water to keep from boiling over).

Drain noodles in a colander and add a little vegetable oil to keep strands from sticking together. Place single servings of noodles into noodle strainer and immerse in stock for about 5 minutes. Place noodles in a bowl, top with pork belly slices, bok choy, scallions, cilantro, and pour soup over.

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