A friend gave me some of her kimchi the other day and I immediately had a craving for kimchi soup like the kind that is served in Korean restaurants.
Googling “korean kimchi soup” yielded recipes using pork but I didn’t have any at hand and was not inclined to leave the house and buy some so used chicken instead as conveniently had a whole one in the fridge.
I used to dread making chicken stock as I thought it was quite complicated. The thought of simmering chicken for hours with what I thought was a must – celery, onions, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, etc etc – was just too much work. And when I did try it once, it tasted just like a can of Campbell’s chicken soup – after all that effort!
But when my mom visited me in Dubai, she showed me that chicken stock doesn’t have to be difficult at all. In fact, she oftentimes only throws in 2 or 3 chicken drumsticks into a small pot of water and voila – that was her stock base. No celery, no onions, no bay leaves, nothing except chicken drumsticks and the soup ingredients.
What I found most enlightening was how she often took one whole chicken and magically transformed every bit of it into not just one, but sometimes three wonderfully delicious meals. Yes, I am old-ish now but I still believe that moms perform magic :).
For example, she would take the dark meat – thighs, drumsticks, wings – and braise them with Chinese mushrooms, woodear mushrooms, lily buds, with the usual soy sauce-sugar-corn starch mixture to make a quick dinner. Then she would take the chicken breasts and slice them thinly, marinate them in a soy sauce/corn starch mixture and then stir-fry them with ginger and vegetables for another quick dinner. Finally, she would use any leftover bones – from the back and sometimes the breast bone – and throw them in a pot with whatever soup ingredients at hand.
How did I do things differently? After cutting up the chicken, I used to throw out all the bones – big faux-pas, I know that now. And if I made the same soup as my mom’s example above, I would have just used water (I’ve tried stock cubes but I think they taste awful). However, the simple addition of bones into the water made the soup much more palatable – adding sweetness, depth, and of course more flavor. I can never go back to just plain water now.
My mom also showed me that I don’t only have to use chicken bones. She often uses pork or beef bones, or a combination. She never cooks with lamb so she’s never used lamb bones but I would imagine that if she did use lamb, she would do the same with the bones.
Oh my goodness, where is this story going?
Right, back to our originally scheduled program: kimchi and soup.
So my friend gave me some kimchi. I was craving kimchi soup. I made a simple chicken stock as the soup base by boiling up a whole chicken in water (nothing else added). As I rummaged through my freezer for more ingredients to throw into my soup, I found prawns, miso, and udon noodles – so those all went in as well!
By the way, I love udon. I hope you do too.
So there you have it: Kimchi Udon Chicken Soup.
Ingredients (serves 2):
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/2 small onion, sliced
1 cup kimchi
1 tablespoon mirin, rice wine, or dry sherry
2 cups chicken stock or water
1 tablespoon miso paste
8 oz tofu, small cubes
1/2 cup kimchi juice (the leftover liquid in the kimchi jar)
6 prawns, optional
2 green onions, chopped
2 x 200g udon noodles
Heat vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 1 minute. Throw in the onions and kimchi and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until onions have softened. Add the mirin and cook for 1 minute until the alcohol has evaporated. I used dry sherry as that’s what I had at hand. Now add the stock, miso, tofu, and kimchi juice. Bring to boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, prepare your udon noodles. Mine were the frozen kind so they just needed to be refreshed in boiling water for 3-5 minutes and drained. It’s actually more traditional to have this soup with rice so boil some up if that’s more your thing.
When the soup is done simmering, taste to adjust seasonings and add more heat if it’s not spicy enough for you. Finally, throw in the defrosted prawns (better with the shell-on to add more flavor to the soup – but you can de-shell too) and simmer for 3 more minutes. Remove pot from heat.
Place the udon or rice in bowls and ladle in the soup, sprinkle some green onions on top and enjoy!