Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On the Cheap: Dumpling/Egg Drop Soup

As a student, I will be so bold as to say that some of us are foodies and Mr. Noodles just isn't going to cut it. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy cheap, fast (though not instant), nutritious, Asian-themed soup. I do all the time.

This isn't really a recipe for this type of soup so much as a way to go about approaching it. I eat dumpling or egg drop soup at least once a week during any given semester following a "what I have on hand" model. It goes a little something like this:

1-2 cups of water brought to a boil in a kettle (depending on how much I want) and transferred to a pot on the stove.
My current favourites are bonito, wonton soup broth mix and chicken bouillon. Other bouillons would work, and so would real stock if you have some. Sometimes I will also add soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar, sriracha or some combination of those.

Flavour Builders
To this I always add a couple of grated cloves of garlic and about an inch of grated ginger (easiest to grate if frozen)... those are both minimum amounts.
Sometimes I will also add chopped chile peppers (Thai bird's eye are easy because one, with seeds, gives it a good kick) and/or chopped cilantro stems/roots.

Veggies: Part 1
I bulk up my soup with veggies such as chopped bok choy (my favourite), sliced onions, water chestnuts, nappa or regular cabbage. Other veggies would work (snow peas, broccoli) but it's not generally how I roll.

With chopped bok choy stems added - I reserve the leaves til the end so they don't turn to mush.
For protein I stir in either beaten eggs (for egg drop soup) or dumplings. This meal is meant to be healthy as well as quick, and I normally aim for 4-6 Weight Watchers Points Plus (since when I'm being good they're what I follow) per serving. Lately I've been on a soup dumpling kick - four of these are equivalent in Points Plus (4) to two whole beaten eggs. Tofu would also be a very easy add-in.

There's no reason you couldn't add noodles instead of/in addition to dumplings or eggs, but I generally stick to protein, which keeps me full for longer. 

Veggies: Part 2
If I'm adding more delicate veggies, like bean sprouts, spinach or the green parts of the bok choy, I add them after the eggs/dumplings are cooked so they don't turn to mush.

Finally, I garnish the whole thing with some or all of: chopped scallions, sliced Indonesian shallots, raw bean sprouts, cilantro leaves. I often serve with soy sauce and sriracha on the table for final seasoning.

Today's dumpling soup.
The above bowl, with four soup-filled dumplings, is cheap in terms of monetary cost, time and calories. It clocks in a 4 Weight Watchers Points Plus, costs well under $5 per serving and was ready in less than 15 minutes (including prep). Perfect for student life.

Like I said, this isn't so much a recipe as the building blocks for one. It's easy to mix things up so you don't get sick of it or tailor it to specific needs. If I'm getting a cold or congested, for instance, kicking up the spice clears things out. If my stomach is feelin' a little iffy, I up the ginger. If I'm in a hurry, I use eggs, if I have a bit more time I can cook dumplings. If you like it more sour, spicy, salty or even sweet (you could add mirin or just sugar) then there are all sorts of ways to customize this soup.

It's one of my very favourite things.