Welcome to our new series of posts to lift your homemade noodle soup game!
We have been making noodle soups for years. We have spent A LOT of time experimenting with different ingredients and methods to see what works, what doesn’t and what’s worth the extra effort.
Originally, this was going to be one blog post, but there was so much we wanted to share with you we’ve decided to just focus on five things today. We’ll do a follow up post later to cover the rest.
We are also going to narrow our focus to only south-east Asian noodle soups, because that is what we know best. Some of the tips though can be applied to many other noodle soups from other parts of the world.
So, lets get started and we hope you enjoy the post!
Tip #1: Par Boil the Bones and Meat
A good homemade noodle soup not only has to taste good, it has to look good! Having heaps of “floaties” (impurities/scum) in your soup will make it cloudy and look unappetising.
Most of the time the floaties are just bits of cooked blood from the bones or the meat. It is completely harmless and usually has little effect on the flavour. BUT it doesn’t look good and to many people probably doesn’t sound nice either.
To prevent this, you must first par boil the bones and/or meat. This will release most of the impurities and gunk which will leave you with a much clearer and cleaner broth
Here’s how to par boil:
- Rinse the bones/meat under a tap.
- Put the bones/meat into your stockpot cover with boiling water and few tablespoons of vinegar. Bring the water back to the boil and let it cook for ten minutes on high heat.
- Once done, discard the water. Take out the bones/meat and rinse them under a tap. Remove any loose pieces of scum with your fingers.
- Wash and scrub the stock pot clean.
- Add fresh water and the bones/meat back into the pot.
- You are now ready to brew your soup.
Tip #2 Cut the Vegetables into Small Chunks
Any time you are using vegetables to create layers of flavour in your soup, cut them into smaller chunks. This will increase the surface area so more flavour can be extracted from the vegetables. This is especially important for soups that require a short cooking time (i.e. anything less than an hour).
If you don’t intend on eating the vegetables then squeeze out as much liquid as possible into the soup. You can do this by wrapping the vegetables in a cheese cloth or pushing them against a strainer. Don’t waste the vegetables!
Tip #3 Adding Depth Without the Effort with Flavour Enhancers
To get amazing depth of flavour, there is simply no substitute for brewing a soup for hours and hours. So, does that mean if you don’t have time you shouldn’t bother or just be content with mediocre soup? No!
To get the extra “oomph” in your soups, you should really consider some flavour enhancers. There was a time where I was that person where everything had to be made from scratch and flavour enhancers where the “devils work”.
That person is now gone. Having kids has given me a new perspective on life. Most days I don’t have the time or the patience to cook for hours on end. I imagine most people with families or lives are in the same boat.
So, my advice is to use flavour enhancers to make great tasting soups without having to invest the extra time or effort.
The ones I use regularly are:
- Chicken bouillon powder
- Pork bouillon powder
- Wonton soup base
Tip #4 Don’t Cook the Noodles in the Soup
Honestly, this rule is not for every noodle soup but it should be for most.
I personally have found a lot of problems with cooking noodles in the soup. I understand why people do it. If you cook the noodles in the soup, the noodles will take on the flavour and making the dish taste better. That sounds good in theory but in my experience, it does not always work out that way.
Cooking the noodles in the soup will generally have the following outcomes:
- The noodles will absorb a lot of the liquid that you have just spent time and effort brewing. This is true for most types of dried noodles. When this happens, it can lead to situations where you won’t have enough soup to top up each bowl. The worst case scenario is when you forget the noodles are in there and completely overcook them (this has happened to me!). Your noodles will be mush and most of the soup will have been absorbed.
- The noodles can impart a different flavour on your soup. Not all noodles are mild in taste. Many noodles have a distinct flavour or an aroma that can change the taste of your soup. This will also cause the noodles to take on the flavours of the soup which people will argue is necessary. However in my view. the flavour of the noodles should compliment the soup and so there is no need for both to taste similar or the same. To me it is more important to get the right type of noodles that pairs well with flavour of the soup.
- Some noodles can change the colour of your soup. If you have ever cooked egg noodles in boiling water, then you will notice that the leftover water will turn yellow once you have taken the noodles out. This is also true with some of the instant ramen noodles.
- The starch from the noodles can make your soup a little thicker. Any type of starchy noodles, especially the ones with a lot of flour on them should not be cooked in the soup. They can drastically change the consistency of the soup.
So, my advice my advice when it comes to noodles is to cook them separately.
Tip #5 Slightly Over Season Your Soup
I think this is biggest mistake most people make with homemade noodle soup. They will taste the soup in the stock pot and season it until it is perfect. They then add all the other elements, and it tastes bland. Why is this?
It is because as soon as you add noodles, toppings, garnishes and anything else to your soup the flavour will be greatly diluted. The biggest culprits are the garnishes/vegetables. Think of something like Vietnamese pho where people will commonly add beansprouts – the beansprouts are 90% water so they can and will dilute the flavour of the soup.
So, to avoid bland soup you should always over season it and do the following:
- Strain your noodles well before adding them to the soup bowls.
- Spin dry or pat dry your vegetables or herbs to remove extra moisture – this is especially important with any noodle soups that uses vegetables like beansprouts, watercress, Thai basil etc.
- Serve condiments like fish sauce, sriracha, hoi sin sauce, soy sauce on the table so people can tailor their own bowls.
Some of Our Favourite Noodle Soups
- Vietnamese Chicken Pho (Pho Ga)
- Vietnamese Pork and Thick Noodle Soup (Banh Canh)
- The Best Chinese Chicken and Egg Noodle Soup
- Quick and Easy Beef Pho
- Quick Red Curry Chicken Noodle Soup
We hope you guys have found this our top 5 tips to lift your homemade noodle soup game helpful! We will be doing more posts in this series in the near future.
Scruff & Steph