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Chicken Noodle Soup of Another Kind

Posted Dec 05 2008 1:04pm
W hat is on a mother’s repertoire when their child comes down with a cold? For 1/3 of the American population, chances are it’s chicken noodle soup. What makes chicken noodle soup so great? It’s warm, it involves slurping, and it’s easy to swallow. Why wouldn’t one yearn for a hot steamy bowl of soup in the cold winter months?

I would. I don’t like soup. In my years of youth, I never really cared for soup. I was the hybrid mutant child of the Campbell’s soup society. I never, ever, enjoyed Campbell’s soup. To me, it was so fake and nasty. It always seemed like something was missing or you were getting cheated out of the ‘luscious’ ingredients of chicken and vegetables. My mother’s soup was the best. Even when it came to fixin’ a grilled cheese with creamy tomato soup, she always used tomato sauce and mixed in milk. It was good because it was thick. I think the reason is for my disapproval of soup was that it lacked bulk. Mom’s chicken soup was brimming with pastina and white chunks of chicken meat with fresh vegetables in a buttery broth. Now, talk about thicken soup; that was some chicken soup.

Indonesia, however, also has stolen my heart with chewy rice noodles, chunky crunchy veggies, silky seasoned coconut milk, and, as opposed to chicken this time around, fresh chewy tempeh. I love tempeh. I can’t get enough of it. It’s an addition. It’s just so..so good! There are no words to describe the flavor because, well, it doesn’t have a distinctive flavor; a characteristic shared by tofu. Tofu tastes like..tofu. For a better description of what tempeh is, tempeh is bound fermented soybeans pressed into a cake and usually combined with rice to give it a sturdy texture. Since whole soybeans are used, the protein content of tempeh is much higher than tofu and, therefore, more filling and ‘meaty’.

I 100% prefer tempeh over tofu. Tofu I have to really crave to want these days while tempeh I can eat constantly..which is bad because I shouldn’t have so much soy. It’s all about moderation and when thrown into a soup of coconut milk and rice noodles…it becomes much harder! Soto Ayam is Indonesia’s rendition of the classic chicken noodle soup so what I did was merely substitute the chicken for tempeh, added some veggies and made a super awesome comforting meal.

Tempeh Ayam
4 oz. tempeh, cubed
½ cup diced sweet potatoes
½ small onion, chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped
¼ pack of vermicelli (rice noodles)

¼ cup coconut milk
¼ cup vegetable broth
½ cup of water
Lime or Lemon Juice

1 bay leaf
Lemongrass powder
Coriander powder
Cumin powder
Turmeric
2-3 pieces of dried ginger

Cilantro
½ hard-boiled egg

First soak the rice noodles according to the directions stated on the package. That usually means soaking them in warm water for about 15 minutes.

While the noodles are soaking, dice the sweet potatoes if they aren’t already diced. I had bought a whole bunch a while back, diced, steamed briefly, and then froze them. Next, chop the onions, cube the tempeh and grab a deep pan.

Spray nonstick cooking spray in the pot and brown the tempeh lightly. Once the tempeh obtains a golden hue, set aside. Add the onions to the pan and sauté until just soften. Add the potatoes, water, stock, dried ginger, bay leaf, and let that simmer until the potatoes become tender. The time varies considering how small you’ve actually diced them.

Once the potatoes become just fork tender, add the lemongrass powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, coconut milk and tempeh. Fish out the bay leaf and dried ginger, then stir and bring it to a boil. Gently, add the noodles and simmer for a few minutes to allow the noodles to absorb some of the broth. If it becomes too dry, add more stock or water. Simmer for about 3 minutes then turn off the heat.

Pour the mixture into a bowl and top with fresh cilantro, a squirt of lemon or lime juice, and the sliced hard boiled egg.
Since I don’t like ‘soupy’ soup, I made it a little more dry so I can eat with chopsticks! Now that's the kind of chicken noodle soup I'm talking about.
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