Soba noodle soup with meatballs and baby bok choy

This is one of those magical recipes that just happened. I had made chicken broth and felt compelled to use it right away. (I have mentioned before that I like soups that don’t require the use of broth. It’s not because I don’t like making broth, it’s because when I do make it, I want to use it immediately, in a dish that will duly appreciate its full worth.)

That day I happened to have all the right ingredients in my kitchen – perfect cooking serendipity: broth, ground beef, baby bok choy, soba noodles. I wanted a soup that tasted zingy, comforting, fresh, far-eastern…ish. (Sadly, this is the closest I come to making anything remotely Asian. And that is one thing I hope to change.) Miraculously, the soup I hoped for was exactly what I got.

Because I liked this soup very much and had nothing else on hand I was once tempted to make it with store-bought broth – it just wasn’t the same.

***

The chicken broth

I don’t make a science out of cooking chicken broth. Whenever I roast a chicken, I throw the bones into a saucepan, cover them generously with (filtered) water, add whatever happens to be in the fridge – chunks of carrot or celery, a wedge of onion, a sprig of parsley, or just a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a squeeze of lemon juice (or vinegar) if that’s all there is. It boils for a couple of hours, it’s drained, and it’s done. I usually add salt to the broth just before using it – it seems to be a better way of controlling the seasoning.

*

The meatballs

1 tsp fennel seeds

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp coarse grey sea salt

1/2 onion

One handful flat-leaved parsley

1 egg

Zest from 1/2 lemon

1 lb (450 g) ground beef (or a half/half mix of beef and veal)

In a mortar, grind the fennel seeds finely and set aside, then crush the garlic together with the salt to form a paste, and combine with the ground fennel. Finely chop the onion and the parsley.

In a bowl, thoroughly mix the meat with all the other ingredients: fennel/garlic/salt mix, onion, parsley, egg, and lemon zest.

Shape the meat into small balls, no larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter (will make approximately 24).

*

The soup

2 heads baby bok choy

1 small piece fresh ginger (about 1 inch – 2.5 cm)

8 cups (2 l) homemade chicken broth

About 2 dozen meatballs

200 g soba noodles

3 Tbsps garum (or other Asian fermented fish sauce)

2 Tbsps soy sauce

***

To prepare the baby bok choy, remove any damaged outer leaves, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) strips crosswise, and wash in cold water to remove any grit. Cut the ginger into matchstick-thin strips.

Bring broth to a lively simmer. Add ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add meatballs and cook for another minute.  Add soba noodles and cook for another 2 minutes. Add bok choy and cook for 1 final minute. **Adjust the heat throughout to make sure the broth continues to boil. The timing is important since all the ingredients overcook very quickly.**

Season with garum and soy sauce and serve immediately.

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4 Responses to “Soba noodle soup with meatballs and baby bok choy”

  1. kristina - no penny for them Says:

    just bought some soba yesterday with this recipe in mind and hope to try it very soon!

  2. Kayla @ Fitter Than Choc Says:

    This is gorgeous – I like the greens in your soba! I followed a link on tastespotting and ended up here; I’m glad I did. I love soba noodles because it’s tasty, healthy and gluten-free:) This is a little similar to some soba dish that we have in japan. Instead of beef, we use chicken. I have to try it with beef one of these days:)

    • valerie Says:

      Thank you very much! I think this soup would also be very good with chicken – I will try that next time.

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