I know we are almost into double digit January, but part of me feels incomplete unless I share a recap of our Christmas glutton. Your Christmas dinner may include a beautiful spread of ham, prime rib, turkey, or take out Chinese food. This year our “pre-Christmas” included a 16-pound prime rib that my brother-in-law smoked for almost four hours on a smoker. It was a big hunk of heaven. I’m not a huge red meat lover, but this was serious piece of meat. We enjoyed it for dinner, sandwiches, and grazing for the entire week. But, that wasn’t our Christmas dinner—that was “pre-Christmas.”
Everyone has Christmas traditions, but I will allow myself to believe that my family’s are special. Our Christmas morning always starts with Champagne and Mimosas. I’ll spare you the details of our gift opening and jump right to dinner. Christmas dinner in our family means my mom’s Chinese hot pot.
Every Christmas, my mother chops up a medley of vegetables, including cabbage, tomatoes, onions, scallions, and at least 4 varieties of mushrooms. Then it’s onto a slew of thinly sliced pork and beef, cubes of tofu, carefully peeled shrimp, scallops, shucked oysters, white fish, fish cakes, and fish balls. (Don’t know that fish cakes or fish balls are? Try looking for kamaboko at your local Asian food market.) Next, my mom carefully soaks glass noodles in hot water, and begins to prepare the broth. (BTW, mom does this all in about 30 minutes.) While mom prepares the chicken and vegetable based broth on the stove, my sister and I set the table, the men bring out the wine and set up the portable gas stove on the table.
With all the “trimmings” set out on the table, my mom ceremoniously sets the large pot of broth on the portable gas stove on the table. That’s the cue to crack a raw egg into your soup bowl, scoop in some Bullhead Bullhead Barbecue Sauce
(no other brand is acceptable), sprinkle in some freshly chopped cilantro, and for me, a generous squirt of sriracha. Whisk it all together with a pair of chopsticks and Christmas dinner begins. What follows is an hour or more of feasting—as long as you can use chopsticks (this is one of my mom’s subtle tests for those who plan to marry into the family). Pick whatever fits your fancy, drop it into the boiling broth, let it cook, fetch it out drop it into the raweggbullheadcilantrosriracha cooling station, consume, and repeat. Just when you think you can’t eat any more, mom drops in the glory of the glass noodles into the broth, and the meal ends as we all clean our bowls with a bowl of hot, steamy, flavor filled noodle soup. It’s a meal I eat once a year and ranks right up there with Thanksgiving dinner.
The thing is, a great steamy soup can be enjoyed any time of year, especially when it’s cold outside. With the recent cold front sweeping the nation with record single digit temperatures, I thought I’d leave my own Asian Soup recipe to help keep warm. Be forewarned, the ingredient list is long. This is not a quick weeknight meal, but it is perfect for a snow day at home.
What? You want my mom’s hot pot recipe? You’ll have to take that up with her. In the meantime, what is your favorite winter soup?
ASIAN NOODLE SOUP
For the stock:
5-6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced thickly
2 pieces of ginger, approximately 1 inch and peeled
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
2 star anises
1-2-inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole mixed peppercorns
1 bay leaf
stalks and fronds from 1 fennel bulb (optional–I threw these in because I had them around)
1 dried red chili
1 cup re-hydrated wood ear mushrooms, roughly chopped; divided (the other half is for the soup)
8-9 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
For the soup:
5-6 button mushrooms, washed and sliced
1-2 carrots, washed, peeled, and sliced on the bias (on a diagonal, to make larger rounds)
1 cup or 1 bundle of glass noodles
, soaked in warm water
remaining ½ of wood ear mushrooms
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
1 jalepeno, thinly sliced (optional)
sriracha sauce (optional)
1 lime, cut into wedges
Salt and pepper the chicken thighs generously. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Place the chicken thighs in the hot oil and sear the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side to brown the chicken on both sides. Remove the chicken and place on a plate.
In the same pot, add the onions, ginger, and garlic and sauté in the remaining oil from the chicken for 2-3 minutes. Add all of the remaining stock ingredients and bring everything to a boil. Simmer the stock for 30-40 minutes.
Strain the stock to separate all of the solids. Place the stock back on the stove. Place the chicken, carrots, button mushrooms, and remaining wood ear mushrooms in the stock and bring it back to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Strain the noodles from the soaking water and drop into the simmering soup. Turn the heat off and serve with the garnishes.