When it comes to cooking, even the novice cook usually has one or two go-to meals that they have mastered. When I was younger (and a meat-eater), I used to make a damn tasty shaved ham and cheese toasted sandwich and a mean bowl of nachos. Nowadays, my meals are a little less heavy, a little more seasonal, and a lot more nourishing. Mastering one or two dishes made from minimally processed and fresh ingredients is a great way to ensure that even if you aren’t that confident in the kitchen, you can still prepare tasty, healthy food for yourself quite easily. It’s also a great idea to have a few tried and tested recipes to fall back on those nights when you’ve had a rough day and you want to whip up a healthy dinner in just a few minutes.
This here is one of my go-to recipes, which actually started out as my Mum’s 2-minute noodle recipe! As kids, we loved to eat packaged 2-minute noodles (we used to eat them with chopsticks, fancy right? ;) My mother, who didn’t share our fondness for the taste, but appreciated the convenience of the noodles, used to throw in a few additional ingredients which not only added to the flavour, but also boosted the somewhat lacking nutritional profile of the dish. A splash of soy sauce, some scallions, or some chopped up cooked chicken were stirred in, along with a handful of fresh greens.
When I first moved out of home, this dish started to feature on high rotation, a fitting choice for my student budget and lack of time (due to all that
partying studying, of course!) I didn’t always have soy on hand, or greens for that matter, so I started to experiment with other flavours. Some shredded zucchini, left over roasted sweet potato, a dollop of coconut cream. Though I wasn’t too interested or concerned with seasonal eating back then, the supermarkets back then (showing my age here!) didn’t stock as wide a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables back then, so my fresh produce was largely dictated by what was available which subsequently was what was in season.
I’ve listed below here a few options for this soup. If you are just starting out cooking and aren’t too confident yet in the kitchen, stick with the basic options and then build up the flavour profiles slowly to suit your tastes. You can use as little or many toppings as you wish, though you don’t need to add a bunch of stuff in to get the best results – one of my favorite combinations is some noodles in a soy broth, with an egg stirred through and some green onions, sesame seeds and a handful of greens stirred through.
At a very minimum you’ll want to use a vegetable stock to cook your soup in. Fresh/frozen is preferable, though you can also use store-bought stock from a supermarket or make up stock with powder. If you do use store-bought stock or powder, make sure to check the ingredient list to ensure that it is minimally processed.
If I feel like going the extra step, I’ll firstly fry some minced garlic, ginger and chilli in a little oil before adding the vegetable stock. I then like to add a splash of tamari or soy sauce to my soup, or a little curry paste. Start with adding one teaspoon per cup of stock, mix well and taste. You can then add a little more a teaspoon or so at a time until the flavour is to your liking. Other add-ins you could experiment with are curry powder, coconut milk or cream, miso paste, fresh lemon/lime juice, sesame oil.
In the warmer months, I like to keep things fresh with a little tamari, lime juice and sesame oil, whereas in winter I prefer a creamier, warming base, like curry paste or powder mixed with a little coconut cream.
I usually keep a few noodles on hand – my favorite types are brown rice vermicelli and buckwheat (soba) noodles. The noodles in the pictures here are actually fresh tofu noodles which I bought at the local Asian supermarket but you could really use any noodles here that you like.
Cook the noodles first in a separate pot and then add to the soup broth and other ingredients once cooked.
If you are wanting to keep this dish quick and easy, I’d go with something you can throw in that requires minimal cooking, such as a handful of baby spinach and some bean sprouts, and perhaps some fresh herbs like mint, basil or coriander. This works well over the warmer months when you want to keep the soup quite light and the flavours fresh.
Over the winter months when you’re looking for something a little heartier, try frying some thinly sliced sweet potato or carrot in a little oil in a hot pan before the rest of the ingredients.
An autumn-inspired soup I’ve been enjoying lately has featured the last of the cherry tomatoes from my garden, fresh corn off the cob and flavoured with a drizzle of coconut milk, some fresh lime and a little basil and Vietnamese mint.
Toppings can really help make a dish. Not only important to give a little extra flavour and texture, they can also help to pretty the dish up, which is important as we eat with our eyes first.
There are plenty of toppings you could choose here and I’d definitely encourage you to experiment, however to get you started toppings I like to use include chopped nuts (fresh or lightly toasted), savoury seed granola, chopped avocado, fresh herbs (basil, coriander, mint, dill, thyme, chives), fresh vegetables (bean sprouts, green onions, etc – even if you have added these earlier add a little extra as a topping as well for added texture).
I also often like to add in a little protein – usually an egg which I’ll fry and serve on top of the soup, or lightly whisk and stir through at the very end – the heat of the soup will cook the egg which will ribbon through the soup, creating a thicker and creamier texture.
Alternatively, other protein add-ins can include a little fried tofu, cooked beans (edamame are great!), nuts and seeds. The noodles themselves can be a great use of protein if you are using noodles such as buckwheat or egg noodles.
- 1.5 cups vegetable stock per person
- Additional flavourings - tamari/soy sauce, curry paste, curry powder, coconut milk/cream, sesame oil, lemon/lime juice
- Fresh leafy greens, bean sprouts, green onions, mushrooms, baby corn, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, tomato, corn
- Chopped nuts (fresh or lightly toasted), savoury seed granola, chopped avocado, fresh herbs (basil, coriander, mint, dill, thyme, chives), fresh vegetables (bean sprouts, green onions), protein (eggs, tofu, beans, nuts, seeds)
- 1. Cook the noodles according to their packet direction and set aside.
- 2. Heat a pot over a medium to high heat and add a little oil. Add in some minced garlic, ginger and chili (around 1/2 tsp of each per serve) and fry around a minute until fragrant and just starting to brown.
- 3. If you're wanting to include cooked vegetables, add them now and fry until starting to cook through, a few minutes depending on the vegetable.
- 4. Lower the heat to medium and add the stock. Also add in any additional flavourings here such as soy or coconut cream.
- 5. Add the noodles and allow to cook for an extra 30 seconds or so - this will allow the noodles to absorb a little flavour of the soup stock.
- 6. Remove from heat and stir through leafy greens and egg if using.
- 7. Add the soup to soup bowl/s and add any toppings you wish to use.
- 8. Serve and enjoy!
- Steps 2 and 3 can be omitted if you want a quick soup - just heat the stock, add your cooked noodles and your flavourings.
- This is a great dish to experiment with - try adding one thing at a time and taste as you go along.
- For specific ideas, see my suggestions in the post body above.