As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, we look to warm and comforting food to help get us through the season. Chicken noodle soup is a traditional winter warmer, but there’s a lot more to the dish if you think outside your grandma’s classic recipe. These three vibrant and nourishing noodle soups will warm your family from the inside out all winter long. It’s time to get slurping.
Thai coconut chicken noodle soup
Kids go nuts for the underlying sweetness the coconut milk brings to this soup, which is complimented and tempered by the tangy traditional Thai flavors of lime juice and fish sauce. For the chili-heads in the family, some Sriracha adds the perfect amount of spice to this flavorful soup.
1 teaspoon canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
6-8 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
Juice of 1 lime (around ¼ cup)
8oz shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
8oz cellophane noodles
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 13.5oz can coconut milk
2 cups baby spinach
Sprigs of cilantro
1 serrano or jalapeño chili, sliced (optional)
Heat oil in a large saucepan and add garlic and ginger. Cook for 1 minute over medium heat until they smell fragrant. Add chicken broth, lime zest and lime juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until flavors have melded. Add chicken and mushrooms to broth and simmer until mushrooms are soft and chicken is cooked through, around 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them soak until tender but not mushy, around 15-20 minutes.
Once chicken is cooked through, add fish sauce and coconut milk to the broth, then check seasoning and add more lime juice or salt if desired. Divide noodles and spinach between bowls, then ladle soup over to wilt spinach. Garnish with chopped cilantro and slices of chili (if using).
Italian mini meatball noodle soup
This take on Italian Wedding soup is a hit for big and little kids alike, and is just as welcome as part of a school lunch as it is on the dinner table. Traditionally the meatballs are made with a combination of beef and pork, but if you’re trying to cut down on your red meat, they’re equally delicious made with ground turkey. Always hold onto old parmesan rinds in your cheese drawer for recipes like this; though not necessary as such, they do add a wonderful depth of flavor to the soup.
8 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 parmesan rind (optional)
2 tablespoons milk
¼ cup plain dried breadcrumbs
½ onion, grated
¼ cup finely-chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
8oz ground beef
8oz ground pork
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups coarsely chopped escarole
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
Place the stock, onion, carrot and parmesan rind (if using) in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer whilst you make the meatballs.
Break egg into a medium bowl and add milk. Whisk to blend, then stir in breadcrumbs. Add grated onion, parsley, garlic, beef, pork, then season with salt and pepper. Mix well until thoroughly combined, then shape meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs.
Place a large pot of water on to boil, cook noodles according to package instructions (usually around 7 minutes), then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, strain stock, discarding solids, then bring stock back to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, then add meatballs carefully to the simmering stock and cook for 10 minutes until mostly cooked through. Add escarole to the pot and cook for 5 minutes more. Divide vermicelli between bowls and ladle soup over, topping with parmesan cheese.
A traditional ramen might take the best part of three days to make, but as busy parents we rarely have that sort of time on our hands! This quick and easy version might not be for the ramen purist, but it is a delicious and nutritious meal for the whole family. Kids love the fun of make-your-own meals, and it’s utterly customizable so everyone can tailor their bowl to their individual tastes. (We leave it up to you whether or not you share with your kids that in Japan, slurping your noodles loudly is considered good table manners…)
6 cups of homemade or store-bought chicken broth
4 slices of bacon
1 onion, coarsely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2” piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 packs ramen noodles (discard soup base packets)
2 cups cooked chicken, torn into bite-sized pieces
Toppings to choose from:
Thinly-sliced shiitake mushrooms
Spinach, blanched in hot water for a few seconds
Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add stock, bacon, onion, garlic and ginger. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. If you have the time, a longer simmer of a few hours will result in greater depth of flavor, but as little as 30 minutes will still work. Strain stock though a fine-mesh sieve, discarding solids, and return to the stove to keep warm.
Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Boil eggs for 7 minutes, then remove from pan and place in a bowl of cold water. Once cooled, peel and cut in half. Bring water back to boil then add noodles and cook according to packet instructions, usually 4-5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
When ready to serve, divide noodles, chicken and eggs between the bowls, then pour the hot broth over. Add whichever of the toppings you choose and serve.
(Note, for an easy vegetarian version, just use vegetable stock and replace the bacon with some dried shiitake mushrooms.)
Jo Eike is a writer and a cook always in search of her next favorite recipe. She lives in Seattle with her husband and three children.
This story was first published in December 2015.