Mornings have been rough. Really rough. I’m not a morning person at all by nature, so it’s hard enough for me to get up as is, throw in the fact that those early hours have become increasingly darker with each passing day, and I’m pretty much still in a coma come 7:30 am.
It also doesn’t help that along with darker days come colder days. Colder days where I just want to pull the covers up over my eyes and hide for the better part of the day, or better yet, pull the covers up to my chin and watch cheesy Lifetime movies for the better of the day. Of course, life doesn’t allow that, so I, like everyone else in this world, have to peel the covers off, put my feet on the cold, hardwood floor and tackle the day.
In these strange transitional days where our bodies are still adjusting to the cruel changes in Mother Nature, my body starts craving transitional foods as well. Give me a piping hot bowl of soup on a cool and rainy fall evening, and you might as well have just given me a fuzzy blanket and roaring fire to warm me from the inside out. Heck, give me a bowl of soup on a blazing summer afternoon, and I’ll still want to become your new best friend.
No matter what the season, soup is always something that’s a constant in my eating habits. Granted, it’s typically because my office is pretty much the equivalent to the North Pole when it comes to temperature, and I can’t justify pumping caffeine into my body at every meal. Sometimes, all it takes is a steaming bowl of broth to alleviate the constant state of goose bumps my body lives in.
In the summertime my soup consumption subsists solely on lighter, broth-based soups, and in the wintertime, heartier good-for-the-soul soups that will fill up my meat-loving husband.
Today’s Pumpkin and Butternut Thai-Style Ramen was the absolute perfect start to the inaugural soup-day-a-week Kevin and I participate in when the weather is shot. Every week, we try a different soup, forgo eating at the dinner table and instead curl up on the couch in front of a fire while watching whatever mutual TV show is on that night. (And by the way, when I saw we “try,” I mean, I cook a different soup each week, and Kevin tries it.)
IF there’s a soup that’s going to warm you from the inside out, it’s this. The base starts with a trio of sliced sweet onion, minced garlic and ginger (The base in almost all of my soups.). Once the aromatics are softened, a heap of sliced shitake mushrooms (my favorite!) are added in for that unami flavor, sliced fresno chile for heat and diced butternut squash, well, because it’s fall.
And then….there’s the broth. A broth that will leave you weak in the knees, both for the unbelievable flavor and lingering spiciness left on the tongue and back of your throat. It will leave you unable to stop slurping it up even though the built up heat is screaming for a cool drink of water. The innate heat comes from red curry paste and the aforementioned Fresno chile peppers, whereas coconut milk and pureed pumpkin cools everything down and adds just a touch of sweetness and depth of flavor.
While the broth is simmering, a raw chicken breast is gently cooked in the mixture, allowing for maximum flavor to be infused into the meat. Once the chicken is cooked through, it’s removed, shredded and then added back into the soup along with the uncooked ramen noodles. The whole pot is simmered until the noodles are soft and pliable, and then it’s ladeled into bowls and garnished with a handful of cilantro and extra thin sliced chiles.
If you are a wimp about heat, don’t fret, just cut down the amount of chiles used or leave them out altogether, you could even add in a little bit more coconut milk or pumpkin puree to cool it down even further. Also, like many soups, this can easily be prepared days in advance. Make everything the day before, but don’t add the noodles or the butternut squash until you’re ready to serve.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 3 tsp minced ginger
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 1 fresno chile, sliced thin (one more if you like it spicy!)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 14 oz light coconut milk
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tsp red curry paste
- 2 small chicken breasts
- 3 oz chinese ramen noodles (not fried from the package)
- stock pot
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add mushrooms and chiles, sauté another 2-3 minutes, and then add salt and butternut squash. Cook another minute. Stir in chicken broth, coconut milk, pumpkin puree, red curry paste and chicken. Reduce heat to a simmer until chicken is cooked through, 7-8 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and shred.
- Add chicken back to the pot along with noodles. Cook until noodles are soft.
- Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sliced chiles and cilantro.