Korean Chicken Noodle Soup (sort-of Ddeok-guk)
The best food critic in the Phoenix area, Howard Seftel, wrote something a long time ago that really stuck with me. He said something to the effect that people think they want pure, real ethnic food, but when it comes down to it, so much of it is so contrary to our American palates that most Americans really do better with a fusion of styles. Ever seen Bizarre Foods? Ack. I think Seftel was on to something. It’s true for me, anyways. I think of myself as fairly adventurous, food-wise.* But, walking through, say, an Asian market, will let me know just how far I am from being truly immersed in genuine ethnic cooking.
All of that is just a disclaimer to state that I’m aware that my “ethnic” recipes are probably mere shadows of their cultural counterparts. It’s my goal to produce recipes that are new and playful, yet ones of which all six members of my family members will say, “Yum! May I please have more?”
I created this recipe because I’m newly obsessed with some strange-ish Korean “noodles.” Made from sweet rice flour, these soft, chewy, oval-shaped pads are known by ALL sorts of monikers: rice cakes, ddeok guk ddeok, rice ovalettes, dduckgook, duk-guk, and more. When cooked, they have an interesting, pleasing texture and they soak up the flavors of the dish.
I buy them at a local Asian food store — a 1.5 lb package is found in the refrigerated section, and costs only $1.99.
Many thanks to the Wordpress blog Muffintop for this picture of plain ovalettes, soaking. Muffintop is a foodie blog, well-worth a visit. (Though the recipe below does not require pre-soaking them, I found this to be the best picture of the ovalette rice cakes.)
As always, all of my recipes are gluten-free, and as of the last year, they’re all dairy/casein-free, too.
Korea Chicken Noodle Soup
Time to prepare and cook: about 45 minutes, 30 if you’re quick 😉
1 Tbsp rice bran oil (or other cooking oil)
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup (3-4 stalks) finely sliced green onions (also known as spring onions or scallions)
optional: about 3 oz. mushrooms, finely sliced
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/2 sheet Nori, crushed (Nori is roasted seaweed sheets, often used for sushi)
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock (I use Organic Chicken Better Than Bullion — at last check, their regular, non-organic Chicken BTB contains whey)
1 quart (4 cups) water
3-4 cups diced cooked chicken (I used some leftover grilled chicken breasts)
1.5 lb package Korean rice cakes/rice ovalettes
4-5 cups baby spinach (or chopped baby bok choy or short bok choy)
In a 6-8 quart stock pot on the stovetop, heat the oil over a medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic and cover. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is tender but not browned. Add the green onion and optional mushrooms, bring heat up to medium, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the black pepper and Nori. Add the chicken stock and water, turn the heat up to high, cover, and bring to a boil. Stir in the diced chicken, and bring back to a boil. Stir in the ovalette rice cakes and bring back to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and stir in the spinach (or bok choy), stirring just until the veggies start to wilt. Serve immediately.
Note: Do not over-boil the soup once the ovalette rice cakes are added. You want them to just heat through and soften a bit. Leftover soup is good (I’m eating some right now!), but reheating will cause the ovalette rice cakes to soften considerably.
*In fact, one of the things that has broken my heart about being gluten-free is now I’m afraid of all the ethnic hole-in-the-wall restaurants that my hubby and I used to search out and claim as our own. So much of them are not gluten-safe, and unless I speak Persian or Korean or Ethiopian, I can’t really ask the chef if a dish contains any traces of wheat.