Lisa's Letters Home: A Soup for Grandma - Sweet Potato Chronicles - Sweet Potato Chronicles

Lisa's Letters Home: A Soup for Grandma

My grand­mother was Japanese-Canadian, which meant that our hol­i­day din­ner table had an unusual hybrid of things like roast turkey and sushi rolls. Although she was a tiny woman who didn’t eat very much, she always made a huge amount of food for any fam­ily gath­er­ing. If you didn’t leave with a trunk full of left­overs, there was some­thing seri­ously wrong. She’d care­fully tuck the food between lay­ers of plas­tic wrap, packed in Red Rose tea boxes.

Every­thing that grandma made had gar­lic in it. One of my all-time favourite foods is her chicken noo­dle soup filled with egg noo­dles and, of course, freshly grated gar­lic, gin­ger, and a splash of shoyu (soy sauce). My grandpa always had his with a fried egg on top. Garlic-laden soup in a deep bowl with chop­sticks on the side will always be one of my ulti­mate com­fort foods and a cure-all.

We have a roast chicken nearly every week and the bones always go straight into the freezer for stock mak­ing pur­poses later on. I’ve recently dis­cov­ered the joy of pres­sure cooker stock – mag­nif­i­cent, rich stock in an hour. When I’m very organ­ised (which is about twice a year if I’ve had enough cof­fee before­hand), I make a big batch of stock and put it in freezer bags.

I’ve been try­ing to come up with quick din­ner ideas that don’t involve ready meals (espe­cially since yet another horse meat scan­dal has cropped up), and try­ing to keep our food as healthy as pos­si­ble to make up for 3 weeks of non-stop eat­ing and wine over Christ­mas. Inspired by grandma and my love of Asian food, I made a soup filled with veg­eta­bles and rice noo­dles, topped with a grilled duck breast. Some­how rice noo­dles seem less stodgy to me and more del­i­cate than egg noo­dles, and go well with the duck. They are also incred­i­bly quick, which is always a bonus.

I sup­pose this is just a tarted up ver­sion of chicken noo­dle soup, really. You could use grilled chicken in place of the duck and a bag of pre­pared stir fry veg­eta­bles would save even more time. I’m just a bit picky about the veg­eta­bles I want in my soup, so I add my own. With duck, I love earthy, dark leafy green veg­eta­bles. I use both dark and light soy sauce because they have quite dif­fer­ent flavours (“light” refers to the type rather than low calo­rie.) If you only have dark, just use two tea­spoons of that.

Grilled Duck and Rice Noo­dle Soup

(Serves 2, or 1 greedy per­son like me.)

1 bone­less duck breast
Chi­nese 5 spice pow­der
Salt and pep­per
Rice noo­dles (I use a ver­mi­celli type of noo­dle that you soak in freshly boiled water for 5 min­utes)
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1 tsp of fresh gin­ger, grated
1 gar­lic clove, grated
1 chilli, finely diced (optional)
Pak choi (Bok Choy), chopped
Fresh spinach, chopped
Mush­rooms, finely sliced
Spring onions/green onions, finely sliced
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
Fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped
Wedges of lime


First, grill the duck. Pre­heat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F. Score the skin with a sharp knife, cut­ting part­way through (but not all the way to the flesh), sea­son well, and sprin­kle a lit­tle 5 spice pow­der on both sides. Place the duck in a cold fry­ing pan and turn the heat on medium-high. Cook until the fat ren­ders down (you may need to drain it a few times) and the skin starts to go brown and crispy, then flip over and cook for another 3–4 min­utes or so. Put the duck into the oven for about 7 min­utes, depend­ing on how thick the breasts are and how pink you like the mid­dle. Let it rest while you make your soup.

Cook your rice noo­dles accord­ing to the direc­tions on the packet, and leave them to one side.

Heat the stock in a saucepan until it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a low sim­mer and add the gar­lic and gin­ger (and chilli pep­per if you’re using it.) Let it sim­mer for about 5 min­utes, then add the veg­eta­bles except for the beansprouts. Let the soup sim­mer for another 3–4 min­utes. Remove from the heat, then add the soy sauce, beansprouts, and corian­der. The soup shouldn’t need any salt because of the soy sauce, but sea­son to taste if necessary.

Slice the duck into thin slices. In a deep bowl, add the noo­dles and pour over the hot soup. Put the slices of duck on top and squeeze some lime juice over it. I was never as good as my grand­par­ents were with chop­sticks, so I eat my soup with both chop­sticks and a spoon.


One Comment

  1. helen says:

    Wow…wonderful com­fort­ing soup.…

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