I have to say I find it fascinating to walk through a large Asian market and wander around looking at all the items that I have never seen or ever heard about. At the same time it can be quite daunting especially if you are not used to such different ingredients compared to the average Western taste.
I knew that I wanted to make a tasty Asian inspired soup and from looking at various recipes I had some idea of what to look for. At the same time I did not want to limit myself to sticking to a strict recipe so if anything, this is a fusion soup with many Asian ingredients. I also knew that I wanted to try some things that I have never had before.
First, the Preserved Turnip.
This is definitely unusual looking. It's a dried and salted turnip but as I understand also called dried radish. It almost looks like a dried piece of meat which at first was a bit unappealing. They are very salty so you can rinse then under cool water before using. In soups not only do they add salt but also an interesting 'depth'. As I researched uses online I was quite amazed at the versatility. It also explains the HUGE variety I found at the market. Compared to other items in the soup this is definitely the most unusual.
Next up are dried Shiitake Mushrooms.
There is a good case for using dried mushrooms over fresh. While they do require some planning in terms of rehydrating they have a nice 'meaty' texture and like dried fruit they pack a in a lot of concentrated flavors when dried. They are ideal for adding great flavor into soups. I picked up quite a large bag for $4.50. Before using you just want to soak them in cool to warm water for about 20 minutes. They turn from knotty weird looking things to plump and golden after soaking.
One thing I love about a lot of Asian soups is that they tend to be light and brothy, not thick and creamy. Heading into the New Year with a little extra weight, this is a good thing to knock down on a few calories yet have a great tasting meal. Adding some noodles towards the end of cooking adds some needed starch making it a complete and filling meal yet staying light.
This is a recipe made with little planning and can take on a number of substitutions, so by all means experiment.
4 Quarts of Veggie Broth
~8 dried shiitake mushrooms that have been rehydrated and sliced.
1 Cup sliced celery
1/2 Cup diced carrots
1 small chopped onion
1 Preserved Turnip, rinsed and sliced
1/2 Cup chopped Greens (Turnip Greens are great!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Small fresh turnip diced
Asian Egg Noodles
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Bring broth to a simmer before adding all ingredients except salt and pepper. Let soup simmer covered for about 1 hr or until all veggies are tender. (Carrots will be the longest item to complete cooking). Because the preserved turnip is already salty add salt and pepper to taste at the end.
Add Noddles to soup and simmer for a remaining 8 minutes before serving. Serve with a drizzle of sesame seed oil and chopped green onions.