This is the perfect soup for the last days of winter. I find that warmth is needed particularly the late winter here in Virginia, when the calendar hints that we should be about in for a reprieve of the icy winds and cold mornings, but the wintery weather clings on. Even after living my entire life in Virginia, I've never come to terms with having more snow and ice in February and March than in December.

This soup is especially good for healing. With potent and nutrient-dense ingredients such as garlic, ginger and chicken broth, it creates the base for a meal that is nourishing as well as warming. It’s also a great broth for colds, allergy season and other temperature-dependent ailments. Greens added at the end also provide a welcome freshness for those longing for the
raw produce of spring.

A word on ingredients:

I almost always use coconut oil for soup bases. The slight coconut flavor doesn’t bother me, and I think it even adds to the flavor of most soups. If you hate the idea, you can use other oils with a high smoke point, though I wouldn’t recommend olive
oil since it tends to burn so easily.

Be very careful not to overcook the soba noodles, as they can get a gummy texture or disintegrate quite easily, particularly those with a higher buckwheat content. I usually use a wheat/buckwheat blend that also contains a little yam puree. A variety of soba noodles are available at grocery stores these days, or you can find them at Asian markets. If you are looking for a gluten-free noodle, Eden Organics makes a 100 percent buckwheat soba noodle, but the price is higher by about half.

The garnishes can be changed based on tastes, or whatever you happen to have lying around. I almost always use green onions and I like the freshness that comes from some type of raw greens such as watercress. I’ve also used bok choy and kale.

2 tablespoons coconut or grapeseed oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch knob ginger, minced
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 to 3/4 tablespoon red pepper flakes or 1 tablespoon chili paste
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
32 oz. chicken broth
1 cup water
1 package buckwheat soba noodles
Green onions
broccoli sprouts or pea shoots
herbed tofu

1. Heat a soup pot over medium heat until hot and add oil.
2. When the oil is heated, add the onion and sauté for about two minutes, watching
and stirring carefully so as not to burn or char it.
3. After onion is translucent, add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and sauté another minute.
4. Next, add the white pepper, stirring to combine.
5. When the contents of the pot are well mixed, reduce heat and add soy sauce, fish sauce, and vinegar and stir again.
6. Add mushrooms
7. Add chicken broth and water to the pot, stir, and bring to a boil.
8. When soup is boiling, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
9. Leave to simmer for at least 40 minutes, checking periodically to make sure it's not boiling too strongly. While the soup simmers, you may prepare the noodles and garnishes.

To prepare soba noodles:
1. Bring about six cups of water to a rolling boil in a separate pot.
2. Follow instructions on the package as cooking times may vary, but generally, cook for about a minute less than recommended.
2. Strain noodles, rinse briefly with cool water to stop cooking and toss with a little oil to prevent sticking.
3. Set aside.

To prepare garnishes:
1. Chop green onions finely
2. Roughly chop sprouts or pea shoots
3. Roughly chop watercress

To prepare tofu:
1. Slice tofu to desired thickness, I usually like about 1/2 inch thick pieces
2. Using a sturdy paper towel, cheesecloth, nut milk bag or clean pillowcase, dry each piece of tofu by wrapping it in the cloth and gently squeezing out the moisture. Do this at least twice for each piece, using a dry portion of cloth each time.
3. Heat about 2 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a medium-sized saucepan
4. When oil is hot, add tofu slices in one layer.
5. Let each piece sauté for about two minutes, or until a golden crust forms, then flip them.
6. When both sides are golden brown, set aside on a wooden cutting board or plate lined with more cloth or paper towel.

Assemble bowls!
Add the noodles to a deep bowl first, then ladle the broth over them. Finish with desired garnishes and enjoy!

Let Van know what you think about this recipe! Email him at [email protected]. If you made it snap a picture and email
it to us, we’ll include it in a future newsletter!

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