This dish was inspired by a lonely little container of rice noodles leftover from a Thai food order that I discovered in the fridge. Noodles can sometimes be incorporated into stir fry situations if they're in good condition, but these were at least a week old and had congealed into a sort of stringy brick that would definitely not have held up to a frying pan.
The solution? A brothy soup to rehydrate the noodles into an edible form, while delivering a delicious and healthy dinner. This isn't really a recipe so much as a rough ratio of ingredients and flavoring suggestings since I don't think I've ever made this the same way twice. And as I write it out, it's not unlike fried rice in it's basic components and adaptability. The version pictured is miso/hot and sour flavored with tofu, cabbage, edamame, and some rehydrated black fungus I bought in Chinatown ages ago, though this dish certainly doesn't need to have asian flavors or ingredients if that's not what you have on hand.
Here are a few winning flavor combinations:
- for bastardized minestrone: use 1 cup of white/kidney beans, 1/2 can of diced tomatoes in juice, a small chopped zucchini, fresh spinach, splash of red wine, oregano, basil, and finish with parmesean cheese
- for simple, rustic, and healthy: sautee 1/2 a thinly sliced onion and 2 cloves of garlic before heating broth, use 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, a few handful of shredded green cabbage, and finish with a drizzle of tasty/expensive olive oil
- for cheaters' thai: substitute half of the broth with a can of coconut milk, use shredded chicken or tofu chunks, mushrooms and red peppers, season with 1 teaspoon or so of green curry paste, fish sauce (start with 1/2 tablespoon), a lime wedge, and fresh cilantro
- for quick and dirty pho: simmer broth with whole star anise and a cinnamon stick, serve hot broth over noodles and thinly sliced raw beef, and garnish with basil, mint, bean sprouts, and sriracha
- for salty, hot, and sour (or the Chinatown special, a personal favorite): use rehydrated shiitake, black fungus, or seaweed, tofu chunks, frozen edamame pods, and green onions, seasoned with 2 tablespoons of miso paste mixed with an equal amount of warm water, a big squirt of Sriracha or other chile paste, and 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar
The only caveat I would add is do make this in small batches since it's best when eaten right away. If it sits, the noodles keep absorbing more and more moisture until they completely disintegrate to turn your soup into a gelatinous mass of starch and veg. Quick-cooking rice noodles are especially susceptible to this. If you wanted to do a noodle soup lunch the next day, just keep the broth/meat/veg mixture separate and heat it with the noodles right before you eat it. I know, I know, that makes two separate containers to wash and that's the worst. But isn't it worth it for a (very nearly) free lunch?
Trash Noodle Soup
Total time: <10 minutes
- 4 cups (1L) low-sodium stock or broth
- 1 cup quick-cooking or pre-cooked protein (small chuncks of tofu, poached and shredded chicken, shrimp, and even white beans would work great)
- 1-2 cups quick-cooking or pre-cooked vegetables, chopped (edamame, scallions, small broccoli/cauliflower florets, mushrooms, tomatoes, green beans, sprouts, cabbage, greens, or rehydrated random ingredients from Chinatown)
- seasoning (see above)
- 1-2 cups dry leftover noodles
Heat broth to a boil while you chop and assemble the rest of your ingredients. Add protein and veg to simmering broth and cook 5 minutes or until heated through. Add seasoning to taste.
When you're ready to consume: break up the noodle mass with your hands as much as possible and add to the broth. Heat and stir until separated and resembling noodles, and serve immediately.