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01/19/2016

~ Chinese: Crockpot Chicken & Egg Noodle Soup ~

IMG_0978I take soup seriously.  Next to a well-constructed sandwich or a well-composed salad, a well-executed soup is a perfect storm of a meal -- especially during a snow storm. Soup-, salad- and sandwich-making all have one thing in common:  all components must play well together.  Like a perfectly-tuned symphony, no one ingredient should take center stage for a solo unless the composer carefully orchestrates it.  No matter how simple or complicated, if one ingredient is out-of-sync, the performance, while possibly palatable, will not garner a standing ovation.

When one 4 1/2-pound pack of chicken tenders = 3 distinctly different delicious soups:

IMG_0749I dedicated this week to coming up with three distinctly different, easy-to-make chicken soup recipes for the crockpot.  I did this for me because I love soup.  I did this for you, because it is soup season and many of you have asked me to post more of my kitchen-tested, foolproof, crockpot recipes (they can all be found in Category 19).  I started by purchasing one large package of chicken tenders at Sam's club, some fresh vegetables, and then, used some on-hand pantry and spice-rack staples.

IMG_0891~ Easy-Does-It Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup ~.  Full of kidney and black beans, fire-roasted tomatoes and enchilada sauce, this spicy chile-powder-laced soup topped with cool Mexican crema and crispy tortilla wisps is a tribute to the American Southwest.

~ Indian:  Crockpot Chicken Coconut & Curry Soup ~.  Sweet potatoes, carrots and canned pumpkin hook up with coconut milk and Indian spices, including Madras curry powder and garam masala for this aromatic treat.

A bit about Chinese noodle soup & fresh Chinese egg noodles:

IMG_0930The Chinese people take soup seriously and they are famous for many kinds.  In China, noodle soup is sold everywhere, including on the streets.  They have a myriad of versions, using different types of noodles, which vary from region to region.  One of my favorite street snacks was a soup dish called malatang.  Similar to hotpot, you walk up to a vendor and choose from an array of skewered raw meat and fresh vegetables.  The vendor takes your skewers and boils them in a pot of chicken or pork broth. Your personalized ingredients go into a bowl with some broth and some noodles, and, after you pay, off you go.  The price is determined by the number of skewers (which are all equally priced) you chose.

The Chinese not only have a myriad of soups to choose from, they have an almost overwhelming variety of noodles to choose from too.  Fresh Chinese egg noodles (thin and wide wonton noodles, and, Hong-Kong-style chow mein noodles and low mein noodles), found in all Asian markets (and larger grocery stores) are made with wheat flour and eggs and are yellow in color (which is often attributed to the addition of yellow dye).  Fresh egg noodles are also cooked to the point of only needing to be briefly reheated in a pot of simmering soup or tossed into a stir-fry at the end of the cooking process.  If kept sealed, they keep in the refrigerator about a week, and, once opened, for best results, should be used within 24 hours.

IMG_0894For the chicken/fresh and canned vegetables:

1 1/2  pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders

2  cups julienne of red bell pepper, julienne strips cut in half (from 2 bell peppers)

1  10-ounce bag matchstick carrots

IMG_09014  large garlic cloves

4  1 1/2" pieces fresh ginger (about 4 ounces unpeeled)

1  cup very thinly-sliced green onion, white and light green parts

2  cups sliced button mushroom caps (from 8 ounces mushrooms)

1  15-ounce can baby corn, well-drained and cut into quarters

1  15-ounce can golden mushrooms, well-drained

1  15-ounce can straw mushrooms, well-drained

For the stock and seasonings:

6  cups chicken stock (48 ounces)

1/4  cup chili-garlic sauce

1/4  cup hoisin sauce

1/4  cup oyster sauce

1/4  cup dark soy sauce

2  whole star anise (pictured in the small bowl with the garlic and ginger)

IMG_0932For the add-ins:

4  cups shredded Napa cabbage

1-2  pounds Chinese egg noodles

cilantro leaves

Note:  Cabbage will be added after first 2 hours of slow cooking.  The egg noodles will be heated and added to individual bowls.  The cilantro leaves are used as garnish.

Note about the noodles:  This soup yields 4 generous quarts.  One pound of Chinese egg noodles will be enough for 2 quarts of the soup -- two pounds is enough for the entire batch. Only heat (as directed below), just before serving time, as many noodles as you intend to use.

IMG_0903 IMG_0905 IMG_0911 IMG_0915 IMG_0923 IMG_0943 IMG_0944 IMG_0956~Step 1.  Arrange the chicken tenders in the bottom of the crockpot.  Add all of the fresh vegetables, followed by the canned vegetables.  Add the chicken stock, chili-garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce and star anise.  Give the mixture a brief but thorough stir, put the lid on and cook for 4 hours on high setting.  After the first two hours, stir in the shredded Napa cabbage and continue to cook for the second 2 hours on high setting.

IMG_0974 IMG_0964Step 2.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove the chicken tenders, place them on a cutting board, and, using one or two forks, pull each one into bite-sized pieces.  Return the shredded chicken to the soup and give it a good stir.  Cover and allow to rest, on warm setting, 10-15 minutes.

IMG_0952 IMG_0950~ Step 3.  In a 4-quart saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  By handfuls, slowly lower 1-pound Chinese egg noodles into the pot and allow to simmer for 30-45 seconds.  Do not overcook. Immediately drain into a colander and portion into 4-6 warmed serving bowls.  Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve.

Put oodles of noodles in a bowl & ladle soup in around them...

IMG_0984... and enjoy every slurp of full-throttle Chinese flavor:

IMG_1004Chinese:  Crockpot Chicken & Egg Noodle Soup:  Recipe yields 4 generous quarts of soup.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; fork; 4-quart saucepan; colander

IMG_9897Cook's Note:  "Hoisin", a slightly-sweet sauce, means "sea-fresh" in Chinese, but, contains no seafood, and, is not served with seafood dishes either.  It is used as a condiment, as well as in the preparation of many chicken and pork dishes, and, as a barbecue sauce for spareribs. Oyster sauce, a thick brown sauce, originally made from the boiling of oyster shells, their brine, and some soy sauce, is salty and a bit fishy tasting.  It's used almost exclusively as a seasoning sauce.  To learn more about these two popular and commonly used Chinese ingredients, take a moment to read my post ~ Time Out To Define:  Hoisin & Oyster Sauce ~, which can be found in Categories 8, 13, 15, or 16 ~.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

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