There is comfort in a warm bowl on a hot day

 30 Jul 2017 - 16:48

There is comfort in a warm bowl on a hot day
Carrot and Cilantro Noodle Soup. (Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post)

By Bonnie S Benwick / The Washington Post

It's convection-oven hot outside, yet I am craving a warm bowl of soup. That might have something to do with how I began eating in 2017, during a month-long staff challenge. (I followed a soup diet.) But is it strange? Nah.

A 2012 ergonomics lab study mentioned in Smithsonian magazine showed that, yes, you can cool down on a hot day by drinking a hot beverage. A nutrition expert was quoted on Epicurious.com a few years back, saying when "we eat or drink hot foods and beverages, it raises our body temperature, which in turn signals our body's systems to cool us down to take effect - we start sweating as a result. As our sweat evaporates, it cools our body down." Koreans, we're told, "fight fire with fire" by slurping hot broth on hot days.

My soup o' the day does not contain the kind of heat that prompts a cold sweat. It offers more of a warming sensation, with slivers of fresh ginger and a mild chile pepper. The weight and silkiness of a good brand of coconut milk - Aroy-D is the kind I prefer, typically available at Walmart - are lighter than that of a dairy cream, and the rice noodles cook right in the broth in a few minutes. Matchsticks of carrots and the cilantro retain their texture and color, and round out the flavors.

Full disclosure: I live in air-conditioned comfort, so this is the kind of summer meal that works for me.

Carrot and Cilantro Noodle Soup

Serve with steamed dumplings on the side, or garnish with a few slices of cooked chicken sausage.

Adapted from Fresh: Simple, Delicious Recipes to Make You Feel Energized, by Donal Skehan (Sterling Epicure, 2017).

Ingredients (4 servings)

2 cloves garlic

One thumb-size piece fresh ginger root

1 mild red chile pepper

2 large carrots

3 cups no-salt-added chicken broth, or more as needed

One 14-ounce can low-fat coconut milk, preferably Aroy-D brand

8 ounces dried rice noodles

Leaves from 2 or 3 stems cilantro

2 limes

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Steps

Cut the garlic into thin slices. Peel the ginger, then cut it into matchsticks. Stem and seed the chile pepper, then cut it into thin strips. Scrub the carrots well, then cut into short, thin matchsticks.

Pour the broth into a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and chile pepper; once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes, until the ginger softens a bit.

Stir in the coconut milk and rice noodles; cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir in the carrots and cook for no more than 2 minutes; they should retain a little crunch.

Coarsely chop most of the cilantro leaves, leaving a few of them whole. Add the chopped cilantro to the saucepan. Cut the limes in half and squeeze their juice into the saucepan, then add the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Remove from the heat.

Divide among bowls, then garnish with the remaining whole cilantro leaves. Any noodles and leftover soup in the pot will thicken upon standing; you can add more broth and reheat briefly to loosen it up.

Nutrition | Per serving (using low-fat coconut milk): 310 calories, 5 g protein, 57 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

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