I’ve been sick with the flu for all of last week (and this week too – but thankfully am getting much, much better now!). While I’ve been laid up, all I really, really, really wanted to eat something healthy and nourishing and comforting. (I also had a weird craving for sugar doughnuts too, but that’s another story). I survived for a few days on chicken soup, that traditional folkloric remedy for colds and flus. But one can only have so much chicken soup and it wasn’t long before I found myself longing instead for something different. And that something different was a nice big bowl of dumpling noodle soup.
Dumpling noodle soup is a total favourite of mine during the winter months. For one thing, it’s so quick and easy to make, which is always a big plus for me! For another, it’s so hearty and filling without leaving you feeling way too stuffed. When prepping this soup for dinner, I like to make enough for leftovers the next day as well. In fact, I find that leaving it overnight allows the noodles to absorb more of the soup, thereby puffing them up until they’re really nice and fat. Yum!
For those of you looking for handmade dumplings, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place! Maybe one day I’ll experiment with making my own homemade dumplings as I’m betting it will definitely be healthier and tastier than the frozen packaged ones but even then I don’t think it’ll ever be a regular staple on the dinner menu because handmade dumplings always seem to me just so finicky and time-consuming and that’s not the point of my dumpling noodle soup! For now, I’ll just stick to grabbing packs of frozen dumplings out of the frozen food section in the supermarket. You can get them from the Asian aisle in the frozen section or try any local Oriental store.
I also like to throw some vegetables into the soup to bump up the health factor. I usually use bok choy, but last week I also threw in some broccolini which is quick and easy to chop and drop into the pot. Funnily enough, growing up, I never liked bok choy. I always found it too bitter and the stalks too hard. But the first time I experimented with making this dumpling noodle soup, I thought bok choy might be an appropriate Asian vegetable to go with the dish and so I decided to give it a go. Surprisingly, this time around I found that the taste wasn’t so bad (the leaves tasted very much like lettuce) and the stalks weren’t as tough either. This could be due to the fact that I’ve simmered the bok choy in the soup, thereby allowing the stalks to soften up sufficiently rather than panfrying them. Other vegetables I recommend include shredded cabbage, baby corn and grated carrot.
One final note: no mushrooms are depicted in the above picture as I didn’t want to go to the bother of going out and buying mushrooms while I was sick last week (I already had all the other ingredients ready in the kitchen), but I definitely do recommend adding some to round out the dish. I usually grab the prepackaged ‘exotic mushroom’ punnet at my grocer’s which usually contains a mix of ‘shrooms including oyster, shiitake and enoki mushrooms. But if you don’t have those, ordinary field or button mushrooms will work just as well. Just wash and chop them up and you’re ready to go!
Dumpling Noodle Soup:
One pack udon noodles (I always use the Hakubaku brand of udon noodles. Each pack neatly separates the noodles into three bundles or servings and I usually use two bundles if I’m just cooking for J and me. But you can use any brand you find at your local store!)
One pack of frozen dumplings (with a stuffing of your choice!)
One punnet of mushrooms, washed (if you’re using field/button mushrooms, slice them up into your desired size)
One bundle of broccolini, washed and cut up into about fourths. Stalks go into the soup too!
Two to three bunches of bok choy, washed and separated into individual leaves (I like to further slice my leaves into halves because they can sometimes be too big but you can also expect them to shrink while cooking)
One red chill, deseeded and chopped up small
About two to three cups of freshly boiled hot water
Two cups of chicken stock
Five Spice powder
Two to three star anise
Heat your stock up in a large pot. Add enough of the freshly boiled water to create a sufficient soup base (I never measure this so I’m guessing it would be about two to three more cups. Just boil the water in your kettle and add as much as desired!).
When your soup is boiling, add the dumplings. Allow to simmer on medium heat for the next five minutes, stirring occasionally so the dumplings don’t sink and stick to the bottom of your pot.
Add the mushrooms, vegetables and red chill to the soup. Also, add two spoonfuls of soy sauce and the star anise. Season with cumin and five spice powder according to taste. Stir well and allow to simmer for a few more minutes before adding the udon noodles.
Continue to stir occasionally until noodles are thoroughly cooked (about 10 minutes for the Hakubaku variety). Divide into bowls and enjoy!