Spiced ginger-turmeric-kombu broth with shiitakes, bok choy and buckwheat soba

On a cool spring evening there’s nothing more satisfying than a warm bowl of homemade soup. My taste preferences change this time of year, away from braises and thicker, heartier stews and toward thinner broths chocked with health-suppotive herbs and spices. Every other Sunday or so I pick up a pastured chicken at the local farmers’ market, along with a pound or two of chicken feet. I roast the chicken, which we’ll have for dinners and lunches over several days, and save all the bones, cartilage and skin. From these I’ll make a rich, long-simmered bone broth, adding those chicken feet, a few garlic cloves, onion, carrot, celery, kombu (dried kelp), and a dash of apple cider vinegar (the acidity helps draw calcium and other minerals from the bones into the broth). You can simmer this broth up to 24 hours, though I usually cook it for about 12 hours. The resulting broth is rich in minerals, gelatin, and collagen, and makes a fantastic soup base, as well as a flavorful liquid for cooking grains, beans, greens, and poaching eggs. It’s also delicious simply sipped straight-up, seasoned with sea salt or tamari.

For this soup I infused the bone broth with Asian flavors: ginger, turmeric, dried shiitakes, kombu, with a nod toward pho with the inclusion of cinnamon and star anise. Ginger and turmeric are two of my go-to herbal allies during seasonal transitions, with their potent anti-inflammatory, anti-infective and immune-supportive properties, great for those of us battling seasonal sniffles due to upper respiratory infections or allergies. Both herbs are also cleansing and soothing to the gut, particularly when the fresh rhizomes are used. Cinnamon, star anise, and black pepper have a warming effect and are abundant in antioxidants, and kombu is rich in minerals, particularly calcium and iodine.

Finished with rich, toasty tamari (traditionally fermented, naturally gluten-free soy sauce) and sweet mirin, this broth becomes a perfect backdrop for nearly any combination of vegetables, noodles/grains, and proteins you can think of. This time I simmered fresh shiitake mushrooms caps, scallions, and bok choy in the broth and poured it over cooked buckwheat soba, which is naturally free of gluten. Finished with a squeeze of lime, crisp slices of radish and scallions, ginger matchsticks, and a drizzle of hot sesame oil, this is an ultra-satisfying and flavorful one-bowl meal. If you wish to add a protein, pan-crisped sliced tempeh or tofu or shredded cooked chicken are delicious additions, too.

Spiced ginger-tumeric-kombu broth with shiitakes, bok choy and buckwheat soba
Serves 2 to 3, depending on sizes of appetites and soup bowls

4 cups stock or broth of your choice (I used homemade chicken bone broth, see discussion in post above)
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1-inch piece dried kombu
1 star anise pod
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 garlic cloves, peeled, one left whole and the other sliced (divided)
1/2 teaspoon tamari (or to taste)
1 teaspoon mirin
5 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed (save for making stock), caps thinly sliced
2 scallions, sliced
4 heads of baby bok choy, two halved lengthwise and two thinly sliced, divided
2 teaspoons sesame oil (for cooking, i.e. NOT toasted)
4 ounces buckwheat soba
kosher salt or sea salt

to finish:
thinly sliced radishes
thinly sliced scallions
fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
sesame seeds
hot sesame oil
lime wedges

Bring broth to a simmer in a soup pot over medium heat. Add ginger, turmeric, dried shiitakes, kombu, star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and whole garlic clove. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Strain broth and return to rinsed soup pot. Add tamari and mirin to taste.

Heat sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add halved bok choy and saute until lightly caramelized and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Bring broth back to a simmer and add sliced shiitake mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered. Add scallions and sliced bok choy and cook for 5 minutes more. Taste and add more tamari, if desired. Turn off heat and cover to keep hot.

Cook soba in generously salted boiling water until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and distribute among soup bowls. Pour hot soup over noodles. Arrange seared bok choy in bowls and add garnishes of your choice and a drizzle of hot sesame oil. Serve with lime wedges.

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