Spices may be the main attraction at The Spice & Tea Exchange in Ashland, featured in this week’s A la Carte. But the business’ secondary component — tea — has its culinary uses and can lend an unexpected note to familiar dishes.
That’s the case in this tea-infused noodle soup created for The Washington Post. Of course, purists maintain that an herbal blend isn’t truly tea. In this case, however, “tea” sounds more enticing than “lavender-lemon.”
I’d also try this with the ginger-turmeric tea available at The Spice & Tea Exchange. Those flavors are naturals with this recipe’s star anise and garlic.
Tea-Infused Rice Noodle Soup
12 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth
1 whole star anise
4 tablespoons dried herbal lavender-lemon tea
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
7 ounces dried rice noodles (1/4-inch wide)
Sesame oil, as needed
1 medium shallot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into quarters
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
4 large rainbow Swiss chard leaves, stemmed and chopped into 1-to-2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 lemon, cut into 4 wedges and seeded
Finely crushed, dried Thai chili peppers, stemmed and seeded (optional; may substitute crushed red-pepper flakes)
In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat the broth and star anise. Cook for about 1 hour, uncovered, until broth has reduced by half. Remove from heat; add the dried tea. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids. Taste, and season lightly with the salt and pepper. Wipe out pot.
Return broth to pot; keep it warm over low heat. Add the rice noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until they are cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat a few teaspoons of the oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms, garlic and chard. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring, then add 1/4 cup warm broth. Cook until it has almost evaporated. Mushrooms will have turned pinkish. Remove from heat; season lightly with salt and pepper, then stir in the cilantro.
Using tongs, transfer rice noodles from broth to individual, deep bowls, twisting them to form “nests.” Top each portion with equal amounts of mushroom-chard mixture. Ladle about a cup of broth into each bowl. Garnish with the lemon wedges and a sprinkling of the dried peppers, if using.
Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.