Spicy Pork Noodle Soup
Home Movies Tuesday!
Hello and welcome to Home Movies Tuesday! If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:
I have never understood the concept of “soup season” when soup is a thing I eat at least 3 times a week, 365 days a year. It’s always hot soup (even the phrase “cold soup” sounds like a punishment to me), and there are almost always noodles.
More often it’s spicy and finished with raw scallion or onion. Protein is fine, but the other day I also made some soup out of a simmering pot of Better Than Bouillon’s finest, leftover brown rice, wilted pea shoots and a spoonful of chili crisp. Frankly, it was perfect. No matter where I’m coming from, I eat soup as my first meal back from trips away, timing the arrival of my delivery (I order Pho Ga from Em Vietnamese Bistro a lot) with my arrival from JFK, or, if I’m lucky, LaGuardia, which is honestly so nice now. When I was a kid I used to get strep throat a lot and the only thing I wanted was matzo ball soup from Solly’s (IYKYK), and when I was fifteen and got mono (nice), I could only drink liquids and so a diet of miso soup. (+ extra scallions) it was. I eat soup when I’m hungover, when I’m sad, when I’ve had a great day, after I’ve worked out and also when I wish I had worked out.
Point being, soup has always the answer. To just about everything. I’ve made many over the years, and they’re all hits to me. This pork noodle soup is a shining star, a thing I’ve made for years with variations based on what’s available and what mood I’m in. When David asked if there was ever a video for “that pork noodle soup” I had to ask him to clarify which pork noodle soup, because I know there to be at least two in my published repertoire. Both are wonderful, but hit different parts of the pleasure center.
This one, the one with ginger and toasted garlic and fish sauce at the end, is arguably more “refreshing,” if a bowl of hot porky broth could be described as such. It’s herby, it’s spicy, it’s savory, it’s restorative. This is the other one, which may be described more as comforting, hearty and cheesy. Don’t feel pressure to choose between the two, you can always make both (and I think you should).
Spicy Pork Noodle Soup with Toasted Garlic
This soup is about as flexible as it gets, which is good for the days where you’re excited to make something but might be out of, say, 30% of the ingredients. While this is called pork noodle soup, if you don’t eat pork you can certainly use turkey or chicken, but you may want to add a few more tablespoons of fat when browning the meat, as poultry tends to be much leaner. Pea shoots can be elusive depending on where you’re shopping, but don’t stress– you can easily use other leafy greens that wilt down easily into broth (I prefer the more tender spinach and swiss chard, but kale will work as well). Don’t leave out the raw onion at the end, 100% inspired by the chicken pho I order at least once a week from October to April.
2 tablespoons neutral oil
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound ground pork (you can also use turkey or chicken if you don’t do pork)
1 ½ teaspoons red-pepper flakes, plus more
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari, plus more
1 large bunch pea leaves, spinach, swiss chard or kale, thick stems removed, leaves coarsely torn or chopped
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (from about a 2-inch piece)
6 ounces rice noodles (thick- or thin-cut), cooked and drained
½ medium red, yellow or white onion or 4 scallions, thinly sliced
1–2 cups cilantro, leaves and tender stems, coarsely chopped
Fish sauce, optional
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the slices become nicely toasted and golden brown, 2–3 minutes. Using a spoon (preferably slotted, will make life easier), transfer garlic to a small bowl and set aside.
Add pork and to the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break up large pieces (you aren’t making meatballs here), until the pork is well browned and in small bite-size pieces, 8-10 minutes. Add red pepper flakes.
Add soy sauce, cilantro stems and 6 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes or so, until the pork is very tender and the broth tastes impossibly good. (Give it a taste and season with salt, pepper, red-pepper flakes and soy sauce, if you want.) Add pea leaves, and all of the ginger. Stir to wilt the leaves and soften the onion and season with fish sauce if you like.
To serve, ladle soup over noodles and top with onion, cilantro and the toasted garlic chips.