In this cross between Vietnamese pho and Japanese udon noodle soup, fresh udon noodles are the star. Fat and bouncy in texture, they cook faster and tend to be more delicate than dried udon.
2-1/2 Tbs. canola oil
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 3/4 lb.), butterflied (cut horizontally almost all the way through and then opened like a book)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium shallots (about 4 oz.), peeled and thinly sliced into rings
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, outer layers discarded, halved lengthwise, and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. packed light brown sugar
5-1/2 cups lower-salt chicken broth
3-1/2 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered (1-1/2 cups)
9 oz. fresh udon noodles
1 Thai bird chile (or 1 small serrano pepper), sliced into thin rings
8 large fresh torn basil leaves; plus sprigs for garnish
1 medium lime, half juiced and half cut into wedges
1 Tbs. soy sauce; more to taste
2 medium scallions, trimmed and sliced, for garnish (optional)
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks, for garnish (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
Tip:This soup is also a great destination for shredded, leftover roast chicken in place of the chicken breast. Just add it to the soup along with the chiles, basil, lime juice, and soy sauce.
Heat 1-1/2 Tbs. of the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, and cook without disturbing until it’s browned and releases easily from the bottom of the pot, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is browned and almost firm to the touch (just short of cooked through), 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool.
Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and the shallots to the pot. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the shallots start soften, about 2 minutes. Add the lemongrass, ginger, and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until the ginger and lemongrass sizzle and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and raise the heat to medium high. Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook the noodles, stirring, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander and run under cold water to cool slightly. Drain well.
Use your fingers or the tines of a fork to shred the chicken. Add the chicken and noodles to the broth and cook until the noodles are completely tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Discard the lemongrass. Stir in the chiles, torn basil, lime juice, and soy sauce; season with more soy to taste. Divide the noodles among 4 large, deep bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles, and garnish with the basil sprigs and scallions, carrot, and cilantro, if using. Serve with the lime wedges for squeezing.
Make tonight's dinner a soup and salad combo: Serve a green salad dressed with Homemade Asian Vinaigrette.
nutrition information (per serving):
sat fat g
Photo: Pernille Pedersen