Whether or not you follow a gluten free diet, there is nothing more nourishing for the soul and the body as a steaming bowl of noodles in a beautiful, savory broth. Have you been suffering one of the seasonal maladies floating around lately? Miso and noodles. Have you been counting the minutes of light gained each day as we move toward the vernal equinox? Miso and noodles. Do you need some fortification to face another month or two of winter? Miso and noodles is the prescription. Be good to yourselves friends.
In honor of my friend "Effy", who has been on a long journey of healing, I have constructed this soup. After finally getting a positive diagnosis of celiac disease (not to be confused with wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity) along with a stunning array of serious food allergies pretty late in the game, she is finally able to begin the journey back to health, but is working with a very restricted diet. I personally cannot imagine what it would be like to experience cascading health problems for years, eventually coming to see food as the enemy with no answers in sight. After the damage is done, it can be a long haul to repair the gut. I am so grateful that things are looking up for my witty, creative, beautiful and resilient friend.
The soup begins with a solid, flavorful, vegetable stock. Some items that I have added for minerals and depth of flavor include kombu, a type of kelp that is widely available in groceries and Asian markets, and burdock root. Burdock is a common "weed" across North America, one with large pokey seed heads that have probably hitched a ride on you during a late summer nature walk. It has an amazingly long taproot, often growing down three feet. The Japanese call it "Gobo" and it is loved for it's sweet and earthy taste, which is why I am including it in my stock. It is also considered to have a very strengthening energy. Can't hurt, right? Try slow braising long, thin cuts of burdock and finishing with sesame oil, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds for an interesting and delicious side dish.
My friend's list of foods that are tolerated does not include many plant based proteins at the moment, so she mostly eats meat. In that spirit I have included very simply baked chicken thighs, which are dark meat, for the protein in the soup. This of course makes the soup more reminiscent of classic chicken noodle soup, and adds to the homey quality. The thighs are simply baked at 350 degrees with a sprinkle of toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds. I usually cook chicken in a cast iron pan, lined with parchment, and covered with foil. The thighs I bought took about 35 minutes, 25 covered and 10 uncovered. Go ahead and add any pan liquids to the stock you will use for the broth.
There are a variety of gluten free noodles out there to choose from and I urge you to simply use what you like best. My personal favorite are 100% buckwheat soba noodles. Soba literally means buckwheat grain in Japanese, but most soba noodles you will find are a blend of wheat flour and buckwheat flour. 100% buckwheat noodles are also rather expensive, and very delicate to work with, but I encourage you to try them. Do a little research regarding the proper cooking technique and some traditional serving suggestions, and enjoy a new experience.
For this recipe however, I chose black rice noodles. They are pretty to look at, quick cooking, and not too fussy. Bean thread noodles (called glass noodles or mung bean vermicelli), or any rice or brown rice noodle will work also. There are newer gluten free offerings made from legumes or lentils also. I haven't found a variety of these type of noodles that I care for very much, but I keep trying new things. There are also varieties of gluten free pasta, some even made with quinoa, that are good for more western dishes, but I prefer Asian style noodles for this soup.
The list of possible accoutrements to the noodle bowl are endless. For our purposes, I propose enoki mushrooms (enokitaki), lots of fresh chives, and sesame baked chicken. Thinly sliced shiitake or button mushrooms work well also. Soft boiled egg, avocado, sauteed carrot, nori, wakame, leeks, smoked fish, roasted squash, green onion, oven roasted tomato, baked tofu, zucchini, and one billion other additions are all fair game to mix and match.
Now for more magical medicine. In each bowl the seasoning elements must be mixed together before the steaming hot broth is added. This ensures that the miso will dissolve evenly in the broth. A mixture of miso, mirin, and tamari (a traditional Japanese wheat free/ gluten free soy sauce) is made more pungent (and anti viral!) with the addition of freshly grated turmeric root, freshly grated ginger root, and paper thin slices of raw garlic. I have made the amounts of these elements fairly modest in the recipe. If you feel the need for a more potent brew, knock yourself out. I can tolerate double the amounts of turmeric, ginger, and garlic called for when I am under the weather.
Bring all these tasty elements together in a big bowl, put on your slippers, grab some chopsticks, and enjoy!
Gluten Free Miso Chicken Noodle Bowl
For the stock:
- 7 inch piece of burdock root, roughly 3/4 in. diameter
- 3 Medium carrots
- 1/2 Large yellow or brown onion, approx. 1/2 lb
- 3 Large celery stalks
- 6 Dry shiitake, about 1 1/2 inch wide each
- 1 Bulb garlic
- Kombu, pieces totaling about 10 x 3 in
- 1 Oz Ginger root (2 inch piece)
- 3 Qt water (12 C)
Rinse all stock ingredients except the garlic bulb. Prep the veggies as follows: Slice the entire burdock in 1/4 inch rounds or bias cut. Cut the carrot in 1/2 inch thick rounds or bias cut. Cut the onion in 1/2 inch slices, skin on. Cut the celery in 1/2 inch slices. Slice the garlic bulb in half around the middle and roughly chop the halves, skin on. Cut the ginger in 1/4 inch slices. Combine all prepped ingredients, kombu, mushrooms, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the stock.
Yield: 2 Qt
Note: This recipe makes a large batch of stock. Much more than needed for the recipe. Freeze unused stock for future use. Also, I like to retrieve the kombu from the stock pot, slice very thinly, and add to my soup.
For the Soup:
- 2 Chicken thighs, skin on
- 3 Tsp Toasted sesame oil (1 for the chicken, 2 for finishing the soup)
- 1 Tsp Sesame seeds
- Two portions black rice noodles, roughly 5 oz total (does not have to be exact)
- 2 Tbsp Tamari (traditional Japanese wheat free soy sauce)
- 4 Tsp Mirin
- 4 Tsp White miso paste (other types will do, but check the labels, some miso contains barley)
- 1/4 Tsp Grated turmeric
- 1/2 Tsp Grated ginger
- 1 Medium clove garlic
- 2 Tbsp Chives, thinly sliced
- 3 to 4 oz enoki mushrooms
While the stock is simmering, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a small baking dish with parchment. Place the chicken thighs in the baking dish, drizzle each with 1 Tsp toasted sesame oil, and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Cover the dish and bake until the thighs just reach 165 degrees internal temperature. Mine took about 30 minutes but they will vary with size. Check the temp at 25 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, place the two portions of black rice noodles in 2 quarts of cold water in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook the noodles until they are just al dente. Drain the noodles and rinse immediately with cold water. Shake out the cold water and set the noodles aside.
When the chicken and noodles are done, begin prepping two large soup bowls. In each bowl place 1 Tbsp Tamari, 2 Tsp mirin, 2 Tsp miso paste, 1/8 Tsp grated fresh turmeric root, and 1/4 Tsp grated fresh ginger root. Slice the garlic clove paper thin and place anywhere from 4 to 8 thin slices of ginger in each bowl. With a spoon, stir this mixture until a uniform paste is formed.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and remove the skin. Slice the skin into 1/2 inch or thinner strips. Slice the meat into large bite sized pieces. Gently rinse the enokitake, and remove the bottom 1/2 inch of the cluster. Separate the mushrooms into smaller groups as desired to be divided between both soups.
Ladle 1 1/2 C very hot, but not boiling, stock into each bowl and stir gently to combine the paste with the stock. In each bowl, heap in the portion of noodles, chicken, mushrooms, and chives. Garnish each bowl with 1 Tsp each toasted sesame oil. Enjoy immediately!
Yield: 2 Large miso bowls or 4 smaller portions. A half portion is a perfect lunch size for me. The full portion is a hearty dinner.