Pumping up storebought stock, Asian style

I grew up clutching the apron of an amazing mom who made everything by scratch. There was almost always fresh chicken stock in the house, and my mom’s noodle soups were second to none.

Her stock has the most amazing aspic, that thick gelatin that forms from boiling the meat bones. I never thought I’d be one to wax poetic about a good meat jelly, but it’s indicative of the delicious flavor my mom’s stocks contain.

Since I now rarely purchase chicken to cook, I don’t have the bones on hand to make a proper stock. Instead, I rely on canned stock (vegetable, chicken) to add to my soups and recipes. Perhaps once I begin eating more meat I’ll begin storing the bones in the freezer — but till then, I use this simple outline to make plain old stock more palatable.

There are a lot of other things one can add to the stock, please experiment as you like. The listed ingredients are typical of what’s in my pantry. Other delicious things to use would be: shallots, lemongrass, scallions, star anise, Chinese cooking wine, whatever’s in your cupboard… you get the idea. The simple act of adding aromatics allows the store stock to gain an additional dimension of flavor.

The picture is indicative of the easy, one-bowl meal that can be pulled together from a bowl of good stock — protein, vegetable, carb, flavor, all in one. To the simmering, finished stock I added a container, sliced, of firm tofu, and allowed it to heat through. Right before serving I dropped in two heads of well-washed baby bok choy (gotta be careful of the dirt/sand that gets trapped between the leaves) until they were just barely blanched — take it off the heat as soon as the color perks up to a strong green. Pour this into a large bowl that contains a handful of cooked Japanese buckwheat soba noodles, then finish off with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of fried shallots (a gift from my aunt in Malaysia, wonderful!). Seriously fast, easy and delicious.

[Apologies for the grainy nature of the picture — I can’t find my camera charger, so this is via my cell phone!]

Not My Momma’s Asian American Soup Stock

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups store bought stock — reduced sodium. Sometimes I even cut it with some water, depending on how much stock I have
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2″ section of ginger, sliced into long pieces
  • Root vegetables (also known as aromatics) — any combination of celery, carrot or onion, very roughly cut (you want them big enough to be able to remove easily from the stock later. In the stock pictured above I only used celery, since that’s what I had on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • A few splashes fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon good sesame oil (I suggest going to the Asian market for this one, I’ve found a lot of American sesame oil is lacking in flavor)
  • A sprinkle of ground white pepper

Directions

  • Bring stock, garlic, ginger and vegetables to a boil. Simmer for 1-2 hours.
  • Remove produce from stock. Flavor to taste.
  • Use in noodle soups, etc.
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