Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Leftover Maven: Mung Bean Thread Noodle Soup

What to do with leftovers on a rainy Wednesday? Make Asian soup with mung bean thread noodles, also called cellophane noodles, in about ten minutes.

I used leftover pork spareribs, rotisserie chicken, and asparagus from the phyllo-wrapped asparagus I had made, but you can use assorted meats, seafod, and/or veggies that you happen to have in your fridge.

Cellophane noodles are best prepared by soaking them in warm to hot water for ten to fifteen minutes (see note below). You can also cut them with scissors to make the strands shorter and easier to eat. When the noodles are ready, their color will go from white to translucent, and when you taste a strand, it will be al dente. Continue with the rest of your recipe. In this case, add the noodles to chicken or vegetable broth flavored with soy sauce or fish sauce (patis), add your leftover meats and veggies, and you have a filling, low-calorie soup.

Why wouldn't you skip the soaking step and just boil the cellophane noodles in the broth? You can do that, but you have to watch them. If they overcook, they will dissolve into a gelatinous mess. I prefer to soak them and then add them to the broth. While they're soaking, I add a couple dried shiitake mushrooms since they have to soak in hot water too as they are a great addition to the soup.

Here's a great description of what temperature water you soak the noodles in depending on the use from
Soak in hot, warm or cold water (depending on what you are making) before cooking. The hotter the water, the more water the noodles soak up and the softer they become and the stickier the outside surface. This leads to some rules of thumb about what kind of dish takes what kind of soaking. For casserole type dishes (where the water in the noodles can get baked out) soak in hot water. For re-cooked dishes, like Thai spring rolls, use warm water. For stir fried noodles, soak in cold water otherwise the noodles will be overly sticky. The noodles are done soaking when they become opaque and are soft (like cooked spaghetti). After the noodles are cooked they will become clear. Quality noodles should not keep on expanding if soaked in water or soup for a long time.

Serves 1

1 small 40 gram packet of mung bean thread noodles (usually comes in a larger bag with multiple mini-packages of the noodles)
leftover rotisserie chicken, shredded
leftover pork spare ribs, shredded

leftover asparagus, cut in 1 inch pieces
shredded carrots
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until soft and thinly sliced
chicken broth
soy sauce or patis (fish sauce)
thinly sliced scallions
ginger, grated
sesame oil

sliced lemon
shichimi togarashi (Japanese red pepper mix)

Fill a bowl with hot water and add the cellophane noodles to soften.

Bring a couple cups of chicken broth in a small saucepan to a low boil. In the meantime, prepare the meat and veggies you want to add to the soup.

When the chicken broth is simmering, add shredded carrots so they can cook through (a few minutes). Add a little soy sauce or patis (fish sauce) and grated ginger to taste.

When the noodles are ready, add them and the rest of the veggies to warm through. Top with scallions, a little sesame oil, and sprinkle with shichimi togarashi if you like it a little spicy. Squeeze a little lemon on the noodles if you like that too.