Monday, March 30, 2009

Cheap Soup for Hard Times

Mark Bittman's recipe, "Egg Noodles with Soy Broth," is not as cheap to make as Patricia Hampl's grandmother's "Nothing Soup"--three cents a serving--made from a smudge of fat, flour, onion and water, which she writes about in her memoir, The Florist's Daughter, or my mother's hard-times "corn chowder"--five cents a serving--made by adding milk to a can of creamed corn, or a salad of dandelion greens you can pluck for free, but it costs almost nothing.  If you read Bittman's column in the Times, you know he's not fussy: many ingredients are optional; he encourages you to improvise.  When I read the recipe I thought it was crude.  It's anything but.  The soup is bracing and tasty.  John and I ate it on a cold spring night.   Spring?  It's still winter in Massachusetts.  Here's how to make it:
1/3 cup soy sauce, more to taste (I like low-sodium soy sauce.)
1/3 cup ketchup or 3 tablespoons tomato paste and a pinch of sugar.  (I used tomato paste and sugar; it was fine.)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, more to taste.  (You could use white vinegar and brown sugar.)
A few drops dark sesame oil ( optional) ( I didn't have any.)
A squirt of sriracha or other sauce, or a dried red chili to taste (optional)  (I used red pepper flakes.)
1 pound egg noodles, preferably fresh.  (I used packaged noodles.)

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  In a smaller pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil; once boiling , reduce heat so water bubbles gently.
2.  To the smaller pot add soy sauce, ketchup (or tomato paste and sugar), vinegar, sesame oil if using and sriracha or chile, along with pinch of salt.  Stir and let simmer.
3.  Add egg noodles to large pot.  When tender but not mushy, drain.  Add more soy, salt, vinegar to taste.
Serves 4

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