We need to define what is considered noodle soup and what isn’t. Not so long ago I read a post debating about why a bowl of cereal cant be considered soup, so knowing the rules of the game make it easier to break them later on, and this book will keep enticing you to break and bend the rules of what we think of as “noodle soup”. The first chapters of this book take care of that; what is considered a noodle, different ingredients and varieties, historical and cultural background, old techniques of noodle soup making from different countries and different centuries, right bowls and other utensils for a good eating experience and kitchen tools for making noodles. Everything explained in great detail and very relevant if we are to experiment with new recipes or ways of eating noodle soups.
Noodles + broths + garnishes + classics
With that amount of detail on just the historical background, you would be right to expect a lot more in-depth information to come ahead, and there is. A lot of recipes for making all kinds of stocks, gathered from around the world, with meat or vegetable stocks. They are followed by even more recipes for making all kinds of noodles in all shapes, sizes, textures and even ingredients that I didn’t even know existed. Grain or starch noodles, fermented, smoked, chilled, pulled, alkaline, batter, multicolored, all the way to more exotic versions like flamin’ hot cheetos noodle soup or acorn noodles. The garnishes section is not as lengthy but covers well beyond what you need to know in order to make the right choices between all the possible combinations and types of ingredients suitable for your specific noodle soup.
However, if you are not feeling adventurous yet, or simply want a taste of noodles from other countries, there is a section full of classic dishes from places around the world; Japan’s Hakata ramen, Indonesia’s Cendol, Slovakia’s pulled noodles, Korea’s Dongchimi-guksu, Switzerland’s Chard noodle soup, New Orleans’ Yaka-mein among many others from all around the globe.
I bet you weren’t expecting this!
The last two sections of the book is where creativity explodes like multicolored fireworks. First, we have original recipes created by Ken Albala. Some soups sound delicious (and clever) like his onion noodle soup, which is like a traditional onion soup with a noodle twist. Others I wont be trying any time soon, like his French fry noodle soup, just because I don’t like the taste of French fries. From here on, the book is full of ideas to inspire you and guide you to explore and stretch the boundaries of Noodleland. Candy noodles, calligraphy on noodles, microwaved noodles, marbleized noodles… all kinds of crazy ideas for you to experiment with. Each comes with commentary and instructions without specific measurements, even less than in the rest of the book. I feel like his idea of Noodle soup cocktails will be a hit in the future; it looks good, sounds good and has alcohol so, I’m pretty sure it tastes good as well.
If you are planing to give this book as a gift to someone who enjoys ramen, pho or other popular noodle soup, keep it mind that it might not suit those who only want to try basic recipes and would rather have a well detailed list of ingredients followed by step by step instructions, lots of pictures and kitchen tips, in other words, another average cookbook. This book is more of an exploration on the endless possibilities of cooking with noodles and turning them into a soup, an invitation to experiment with ingredients, a reference book with some recipes along the way and explanations on techniques for you to try and tweak to your own preferences. While you can certainly follow along the instructions, most of them require some trial and error and deciding on measurements on your own, so for the inexperienced cook this can be very daunting. On the other hand, people like me who don’t seem to be able to stick to recipes and love experimenting in the kitchen, will find this book just right up their alley. Even more so if they love soups and noodles! but who doesn’t? so I will assume that is a given.
I got my eArc from NetGalley