By Luke Chavez
The Times 

Spicy Mustard Greens and Pork Soup

My Recipes|Luke Chavez

 

February 23, 2023

Luke Chavez

Spicy Mustard Greens and Pork Soup

When I lived in Seattle, the last soggy, grey weeks of winter were the hardest to endure. One of my favorite ways to combat the dreary short days was to head to the International District for a comforting bowl of soup. From meaty Vietnamese pho, and spicy Sichuan hot pot, to bubbling bowls of Japanese nabeyaki udon, there were always plenty of choices to warm me up in this vibrant historic neighborhood.

Back in Waitsburg, as our mild February has taken another turn towards the cold and windy, I found myself wanting to recreate some of the flavors I loved back in the Emerald City. Here, ground pork is robustly spiced with ginger and Sichuan peppercorns, simmered with leafy greens, and served over delicate rice noodles. This soup comes together quickly and is satisfying without being heavy, making it perfect for a weeknight meal.

Ingredients:

½ pound ground pork

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed (see notes)

¾ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes

½ teaspoon cumin seeds, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon canola oil

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

4 cups chicken broth

1 bunch mustard greens, torn

4 scallions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce

8 ounces wide rice noodles (see notes)

For serving:

Fresh cilantro leaves

Fresh lime wedges

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix pork, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, red chili flakes, and cumin seeds. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pork mixture to the pan then season with salt and black pepper. Cook until meat is evenly browned, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon as you go, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, allowing the flavors to blend. Next, add the mustard greens, scallions, soy sauce, and the fish sauce. Continue to cook at a steady simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to taste.

While the soup is simmering, prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

When ready to serve, divide the noodles in the bottom of bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles and garnish tops with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately with lime wedges on the side.

Variations:

To add more earthy flavors, add sliced fresh shitake mushrooms to the pot at the same time as the broth. If using dried shitakes, soak them in hot water to soften before slicing and adding to soup. Other wild mushrooms, or thinly sliced winter squash would also be delightful simmered in the broth.

For a surf and turf version, add some fresh prawns (left whole or minced) to the pot halfway through the browning of the pork mixture. Crab meat or seared scallops would also be tasty with the pork.

Instead of ground pork, you could easily use ground chicken or turkey for a lighter version of this soup. If you can't find mustard greens you can substitute with beet greens, turnip greens, or kale.

Notes:

Sichuan peppercorn is a unique spice commonly used in China, which is available at some larger grocery stores, or from online sources. It is known for its slight tingling and numbing effect when eaten. Its flavor is a signature part of many well-known dishes from Sichuan Provence, including mapo tofu and hot pot. If you can not find Sichuan peppercorns, you can make your own substitution with equal parts coarsely ground black pepper and ground coriander.

Wide rice noodles are a common ingredient used in a variety of Asian cuisines. Versions originating from China, Vietnam, or Thailand can readily be found in the Asian section of large grocery stores. Packages will be labeled as being for "Phad Thai", or "stir fry", and can vary in thickness. Follow the package cooking instructions carefully to avoid overcooking.

Enjoy!

 

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