Sotanghon chicken and mushroom soup

It’s probably the summer heat that makes us crave liquid in just about any form. My family seems to appreciate soup more these days no matter how simple. But why we’re craving simpler dishes, I have no idea. Perhaps we’ve had our fill of exotic and spicy Asian dishes and we want a little break from them. Perhaps it’s a kind of affirmation of roots. After spending a few days in Bicol, it’s hard not to appreciate the simpler things in life. Or, maybe, it’s just me. I’m too lazy to cook dishes that require a lot of preparation because this isn’t exactly the season for prolonged stays in the kitchen and I just want to think that my family wants simple dishes as much as I do. Perhaps, I’m not giving them any choice and they’re just thankful that I still choose to cook rather than feed them canned meat and fish. The other day, I ran out of annatto seeds to color my sotanghon soup but no one seemed to care. They devoured the soup anyway.

Cut each chicken thigh into four or six portions, depending on the size of the fillet. The ideal cut is about two inches square so they don’t look too small compared to the size of the cut mushrooms. Cut off the stalks of the shiitake mushrooms and cut the caps into 1/4-inch thick slices. Halve or quarter the white button mushrooms. Crush and peel the garlic, Finely chop. Peel and finely slice the shallots. Cut the green onion into half-inch lengths. Peel the carrot and julienne (cut into matchsticks).

Heat the cooking oil in a pot. Saute the garlic and shallots until fragrant, about one minute. Add the chicken, season with salt (or fish sauce) and pepper. Cook over high heat until the chicken pieces start to brown around the edges. Pour in the meat broth and bring to the boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the chicken is done about 10 minutes. Add the dried sotanghon, mushrooms, and julienned carrot to the pot. Continue simmering until the noodles and vegetables are done, about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Stir in the green onion before serving.

For best results, use homemade broth. Ten to twelve cups of broth may seem too much but there’s a good reason for the excess. The sotanghon is added directly to the pot instead of being pre-soaked in water so you’ll need more liquid to allow the noodles to expand. Why not soak the sotanghon in water before adding it to the pot? Because instead of the noodles absorbing water, they become more flavorful when they absorb broth instead.