I once sat in Wagamama’s and listened to the girl next to me describing in lurid detail the day she lost her virginity to a 14 year old in the back of a bus. On another occasion, at a different noodle bar in Oxford, I had to put up with a man who sneezed between every mouthful and turned to me with a sheepish grin and lisped out his apology.
I think it was probably that final experience that broke me. I decided at that point to no longer put up with the hotbed of nutters that most noodle bars seem to be and instead invite my own, special nutters round to eat homemade noodle soup.
Replicating the subtleties of the best noodle soup seemed like an insurmountable challenge. I value a good noodle soup above almost any other simple lunch dish. There’s a restaurant called Wong Kei in Chinatown which makes a £2.80 vegetable noodle soup which hits the spot so perfectly with a perfect balance of liquid to noodle and spicy to refreshing…how could I hope to walk this tightrope unaided?
Pretty easily, as it turned out. It’s basically just tasty ingredients & decent stock combined with a little bit of care. It is best to cook the prawns (or chicken or whatever else you fancy) separately, as you retain more purity in the broth that way. You’ll need good veggie stock, the cubes won’t really do the trick with this one.
Later today I am going to make this dish for Alakina and she is going to take pictures of it. I can make you one promise, though – on this blog you will never ever see a soft-focus Polaroid shot of a bubbling pan or oozing fillet. Scout’s honour.
This is enough for two as a good sized lunch or light supper.
It’s…it’s not you. It’s me. I’ve met someone. She’s called NOODLE SOUP.
Prawn Noodle Soup
- About 300 ml vegetable stock – homemade or ready made, not from cubes
- Dark soy sauce
- Cider vinegar or similar
- A little brown sugar
- Sake or dry white wine
- Two red chillis, deseeded and finely chopped
- One clove of garlic, finely chopped or pulped
- A small thumb-sized lump of ginger, finely shredded
- Two spring onions, finely sliced
- About 200g of peeled prawns
- A block of fine egg noodles
- Pak choi, one heart
- A handful of spinach
First, mix three or four tablespoons of soy sauce, two tablespoons of vinegar, one of white wine or sake, the chillis, the garlic, the ginger, one of the spring onions and a big pinch of brown sugar. Cover the prawns in the mixture and cover. Leave for at least 30 minutes, preferably more like one hour.
Pour the vegetable stock into a deep saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cover. Heat a big slug of oil over a high heat in a wok or similar. Once the oil is shimmering and smoking, throw in all the prawns with the marinade and stir fry. They should spit and crack. At the same time, add the noodles to the stock.
Just as the prawns are starting to colour a little at the sides, add the pak choi and beansprouts to the wok along with what remains of the marinade. When the pak choi begins to wilt, add the spinach and turn off the heat. Keep stirring until the wok settles. Separate the noodles between two bowls, add the prawns and vegetables and pour hot stock over the lot until the noodles are just covered.
Scatter over the remaining spring onion and eat messily with a dry Alsace riesling or beer. Or Ribena. Ribena works too.