Chinese Egg Noodles in Soy Broth

MAKES: 2 main-course or 4 side-dish servings

TIME: 20 minutes

This is a simple, basic noodle soup; check out the chart for other ideas.

Salt

1/2 pound fresh or dried Chinese egg noodles

1/4 cup soy sauce, or to taste

2 tablespoons ketchup (to make your own, see Homemade Ketchup)

Freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces firm tofu, pressed (see Preparing Tofu) if you have time, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup sliced scallion

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts (optional)

1 tablespoon minced fresh chile or to taste, or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Cook the noodles until tender but not mushy. Fresh noodles will take just a few minutes; dried a little longer. Drain, rinse, and put in a bowl of cold water while you prepare the other ingredients.

Rinse the pot and bring 6 cups of water to a boil; stir in the soy sauce and ketchup. Taste and add a little salt if it needs it, plus lots of black pepper. Keep the broth bubbling.

To serve, drain the noodles well and divide them among bowls. Ladle the broth over the noodles and swirl them a bit to make sure they’re submerged. Top with tofu and scallion, and peanuts and chiles if you like.

Variations

Bean Threads with Coconut Milk and Mint. A splash of Fishless Fish Sauce makes the broth even more flavorful: Instead of egg noodles, soak two 2-ounce bundles of glass (mung bean) noodles in hot water. When soft, cut the strands a few times with kitchen scissors to make manageable lengths. Drain, rinse, and return to cold water as described in Step 1. In Step 2, bring 1 quart water to a boil and add 2 cups coconut milk (see Coconut Milk to make your own or use 1 can, slightly less than 2 cups, with a little water). Add both the soy sauce and the ketchup. If you like, use Crunchy Crumbled Tempeh instead of the tofu. Use 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint and 1/4 sliced scallion. Proceed with the recipe, adding both peanuts and chiles, unless you can’t stand them.

Vastly Improved Store-Bought Ramen. For fifteen cents, you buy a package of ramen, which is really a serving of noodles with a package of nearly poisonous broth mixture included. Try this: Use the noodles and cook them as in Step 1, then proceed, using as many or as few of the above ingredients as you like. Or cook the noodles as in Step 1, gently dropping an egg into them when they’re about half cooked and reducing the heat to a simmer. When the egg is poached, gently stir in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, and a dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce. Garnish if you like, with peanuts, tofu, and/or scallion and serve.