By Barbara Beltrami
You may be wondering why I seldom write about Asian cuisine. It’s simple; I don’t know very much about it and have cooked it infrequently. However, with the spate of Asian restaurants springing up everywhere, I’ve had more occasion to dine on that cuisine. In turn, with the help of cookbooks and the internet I’ve tried to duplicate or at least imitate some of my favorite dishes, especially the soups, so rich in umami flavor. I have developed a yen (pardon the pun) for Japanese ramen, Chinese dumpling soup and my longtime favorite, hot and spicy soup.
The recipes I’ve developed may not be, by Asian standards, very authentic, but to me they taste pretty much like the genuine thing.
Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Greens
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
¾ pound fresh shrimp in shells, peeled and deveined
1½ tablespoons peeled very finely minced fresh ginger
4 tablespoons minced scallions
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon sesame oil
¼ cup finely minced canned water chestnuts
50 wonton wrappers
3½ cups minced, trimmed fresh baby bok choy
8 cups chicken stock or broth
In food processor bowl blend shrimp, ginger, scallions, salt, pepper, sherry and oil to a smooth paste.; stir in water chestnuts. In large pot, bring unsalted water to steady simmer. Lightly brush edges of wonton wrapper with water; place half a teaspoon of filling in center, then pinch corners shut to form a little pouch.
When all wrappers are filled poach them for one and a half minutes in simmering water, remove with slotted spoon, drain well and spread on large platter. Blanch bok choy in dumpling water 10 to 15 seconds, drain, then immerse in ice water, drain again and press gently to remove excess water.
In a large pot, bring chicken stock to steady simmer, gently add dumplings and cook for a minute or so to heat them through. Serve soup hot with fried noodles or spring rolls.
Chicken, Spinach, Mushroom and Ramen Noodle Soup
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
10 cups water
1 pound chicken tenders, diced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped peeled ginger
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 bunch scallions, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons light (not too salty) miso
3 ounces dried brown rice ramen noodles
½ pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1/3 pound green beans, cleaned and sliced
10 ounces tofu, diced
2 cups broccoli florets and peeled stems, thinly sliced
¾ pound fresh spinach, washed and chopped
In a large pot, simmer together the water, chicken, ginger, pepper and soy sauce for 15 minutes; discard ginger but retain liquid. In a large skillet over medium heat saute scallions, onion, carrot and garlic in sesame oil for 5 minutes, until onion is transparent and carrot is somewhat tender; toss with soy sauce. Transfer to pot with liquid; add miso, stir and bring to a boil. Add ramen noodles, mushrooms, zucchini, green beans, tofu and broccoli; return to boil and cook 5 minutes; add spinach and simmer one or two minutes. Serve immediately with a dry white wine or saki.
Spicy Hot Northern Chinese Soup
YIELD: Makes 6 servings
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 to 2½ teaspoons finely minced hot peppers (serrano or other)
1 tablespoon finely minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
7 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, peppers and ginger and saute until soft but not browned. Add breadcrumbs and stir well to combine with garlic mixture; add cayenne and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes; add lime juice, salt and pepper. When ready to serve, being very careful not to let soup boil, very slowly and gently stir in beaten eggs and cilantro. Serve immediately with fried rice, green tea and lots of ice cold water!