Spicy Sesame Pork Soup with Noodles

February  5, 2013
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

My noodle soup haiku: I love noodle soup. Laksa, Tan Tan, Bun Rieu Chay! Slurpy noodle joy.

I do love noodle soup but have seldom taken the time to make a rich, flavorful broth. I decided now was as good a time as any, and figured pork would be a good place to start. Going in I knew that this would not be an eat-the-same-day-you-make-it soup. This is the long road, the start on Friday eat on Sunday kind of soup. Having never made pork-based stock before, I remembered cookinginvictoria’s rich Sunday Pork Ragu used pork neck bones and that they ended up being one of my favorite parts of the dish. I decided to roast them, to deepen the flavor of the stock and added some carrots and onion, for their earthy sweetness. I also chose to add a ham hock in the last hour of cooking for its salt and smoke, as well as whole cilantro and green onion for another layer of flavor (a trick I learned from making a chicken soup from Hot Sour Salty Sweet). Thinking of my favorite tan tan ramen I knew I wanted a sesame element but could not source any Asian sesame paste. Realizing I could simply grind my own sesame paste, I decided to use a gift my dad had recently brought back from Japan – a mixture of roasted sesame seeds and bonito flakes (katsuo furikake) for added richness. For heat and salt, I used gojuchang (another timely gift) and a little aka miso – both having the dark, roasted notes I was looking for. The pork bones I found were extremely meaty and I was happy to be able to use the meat for the soup (though ground pork would be a good substitute). Far from traditional, the addition of balsamic vinegar adds a much-needed splash of acid. Enjoy! N.B. In experimenting with this recipe, I had an unexpected surprise. After one to two days of cooking (depending on how long you take to make the basic stock) the seasonings need at least an overnight in the fridge to bloom. Eaten immediately after adding them, the stock is shockingly bland. Allowing the mixture to cool overnight (or a few days) marries them in a flavorful way – suddenly all the taste you expected is there. —gingerroot

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Gingerroot is an apron-wearing cook from Honolulu, Hawaii.
WHAT: A rich, brothy soup that delivers on its promises.
HOW: To make this stock, you'll need to be a bit patient. You'll also need to roast a lot of bones, simmer, skim, and strain. But it'll be worth your time, we promise.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This soup tastes as soul-satisfying as it is to make. It's a long haul -- but the kind that we love to get in our element and make, methodically. The smoky, spicy, long-simmered end result just sweetens the reward. —The Editors

  • Prep time 15 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
  • For Stock
  • 3 pounds meaty pork neck bones
  • 1 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, preferably organic, scrubbed and rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 5 whole cilantro plants, including roots, well washed
  • 5 whole scallions, including roots, well washed
  • Seasonings For the Soup -- Finishing the Soup
  • 1/4 cup Katsuo Furikake (Roasted Sesame Seed and Dried Bonito mix) *found in the Japanese section of an Asian market or some grocery stores
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Gochujang (fermented Korean chili paste), found in the Korean section of an Asian market or some grocery stores
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Aka (Red) Miso paste, found in the Japanese section of an Asian market or some grocery stores
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 cups reserved pork meat, chopped
  • 4 cups shredded Savoy or Napa cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 14 ounces rice vermicelli (from an Asian market or section of the grocery store – Do not substitute gluten free rice noodles) *Feel free to substitute your favorite Asian noodle instead, such as ramen
In This Recipe
  1. For Stock
  2. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  3. Spread pork bones out on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, carefully flip bones with a metal spatula and tongs and add carrots and onions to pan, piling vegetables on top of the bones. Roast for 30 more minutes, until vegetables begin to char around edges and bones begin to caramelize.
  5. Transfer bones and vegetables to a large stockpot. Add 14 cups water, reserving the last ½ cup to deglaze the roasting sheet, using a metal spatula to scrape up all the browned bits before adding mixture to stockpot. Water should be covering bones by about an inch.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk tamarind paste, tomato paste, and 2 tablespoons water from the stockpot. Whisk this mixture into the stockpot.
  7. Heat stock over medium-high heat until nearly boiling, and then reduce to a slow simmer.
  8. Continue simmering (uncovered) for 2 hours.
  9. After 2 hours, using a sieve, strain out vegetables, pressing down on solids so liquids go back into stockpot. One at a time, carefully take out bones and put them on a plate near your stockpot. Using small tongs and a fork (or two forks) remove the meat. Transfer meat (should have between 3-4 cups depending on how meaty your bones were) to a container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate. Return bones, including cartilage and fat, and any liquid that may have accumulated on the plate, to stockpot. Continue simmering for 1 hour. At this point, you can allow mixture to cool slightly before refrigerating overnight. I found that transferring stock to another pot nestled in a large pan filled with ice and water helped cool down the stock more quickly in order to transfer pot to refrigerator. The next day, remove congealed fat layer from surface of stock before simmering for a final hour, adding the smoked ham hock, whole cilantro plants and scallions. Strain out hock and aromatics with a sieve, pressing down on solids to allow liquids back into stock. Repeat cooling and refrigerating step.
  10. Alternatively, you can make the stock in one day by adding the smoked hock and aromatics after three hours of simmering (skipping the extra overnight in the fridge), and continue cooking for the final hour. Cool stock enough to refrigerate overnight (see above in step 8).
  1. Seasonings For the Soup -- Finishing the Soup
  2. Take stock out of refrigerator and remove congealed fat layer from the surface of soup (stock should be more like jelly than liquid).
  3. Heat stock over medium-high heat until nearly boiling, and then reduce to a slow simmer.
  4. If you have them, use a suribachi (ceramic Japanese mortar with rough grooves on the inside of the bowl) and surikogi (wooden pestle) to grind katsuo furikake into a paste. If you do not, a regular mortar and pestle will also work. Add ½ t sesame oil midway through grinding to help mixture come together.
  5. When almost all of the sesame seeds are mashed, add in 1 T of gojuchang. If you know you love heat, add 2 T. As you turn the pestle around the mortar, the gojuchang will ball up around the sesame seed mixture. Whisk this into the stock and allow soup to simmer for 20 minutes. If there is still a lot of sesame-gojuchang paste stuck in the mortar, add a little bit of stock to the bowl, stir, and pour mixture into the pot.
  6. Turn off heat.
  7. Place miso paste in a small bowl and whisk in enough hot stock (2-3 T) to liquefy the miso. Pour this into stock and stir to incorporate. Allow mixture to cool and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Remove your soup from the refrigerator and slowly heat it up.
  9. In another pot, cook rice vermicelli according to directions on the package, and then drain in a colander, rinsing with some cold water to stop the noodles from cooking.
  10. In a skillet large enough to hold pork and cabbage, heat sesame oil over medium heat.
  11. Add chopped pork and stir to heat through. Add cabbage and stir to take off raw edge. Turn off heat, stir in balsamic and a pinch of salt.
  12. Portion rice noodles into soup bowls.
  13. Top each bowl with pork and cabbage.
  14. Ladle steaming broth over each bowl.
  15. Generously add chopped green onions and cilantro to each bowl and serve immediately. Enjoy!
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Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.