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This post is intended to be more of a guide than a recipe. The ingredients, and quantities of each, change with my mood. Sometimes I want a fiery hot broth and add sriracha until my nose runs and eyes tear up. Other times I want a pronounced garlicky bite, the umami punch of reconstituted dried shiitakes, or the hint of star anise that makes me think of good pho. I use this broth plain, or add noodles, or dumplings (often my spicy pork dumplings), or a great deal of shredded or diced vegetables and herbs. It is a mood-suiting recipe. My hesitation in sharing it until now, a dish I make so often I keep the basic pantry ingredients grouped in a cupboard together, is that I have struggled with how to present the recipe as I think of it, ever-changing and infinitely adaptable, more a method than a measure. However, and especially because I referred to it in my recent post about spicy pork dumplings, this broth is too important to me as a cook not to have in my archives here.

I typically use beef broth or chicken/turkey broth, but have had good luck with mushroom and vegetable broth as well. Beef broth stands up to bolder spices like star anise and cinnamon, lots of black pepper and bay leaf; chicken broth tends to be more soothing and delicate, good with extra ginger and scallions. It really is a matter of preference. Pictured below is a recent version made with store brand Whole Foods beef broth, no extra sriracha, lots of garlic, scallions and ginger. I added a dozen frozen spicy pork dumplings and let them heat for about 7 mins. to make sure they were cooked through. It was delicious… and I have enough dumplings left to make more this week, or soon.

As I said before: I hope you will treat the ingredient quantities listed below as more of a guide than a strict recipe. Go with what you have on hand, what you’re craving; if you’re delicate with the salty ingredients it’s nearly impossible to make a wrong turn. And once you find the combination(s) you like, I bet this wonderful broth will be as much of a staple for you as it is in our house.

Comforting savory broth, with spicy pork dumplings

Savory Broth for Dumplings (makes 2-4 servings)

  • 4 c. broth, homemade or store-bought
  • 2″ fresh ginger, sliced, sometimes peeled
  • 2 – 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 – 2 scallions, diced
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. (or more) sriracha
  • abundant freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of kosher salt, only if needed
  • 3 – 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted in 1/2 c. hot water, chopped
  • 1 – 2 star anise (optional)
  • cinnamon stick (optional)
  • bay leaf (optional)

Put all ingredients into a large saucepan (except for shiitakes; read directions below) and simmer gently for at least 30 mins. to infuse broth with the flavors you have chosen. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, especially sriracha and soy sauce. Remember that the saltiness of soy sauce and salt will concentrate as the broth reduces, so be light-handed until you determine the levels you enjoy. Star anise and cinnamon can both be potent, so consider adding them 15 mins. into cooking for a lighter level of spice. Use a cover on the pan to retain more volume; otherwise, the broth will reduce as it simmers.

If you’re using dried shiitakes, reconstitute them in hot water in a small bowl or coffee mug for about 15 mins. Slice  or chop them and add *with the soaking water* to your broth.

Add noodles (pre-cooked if you don’t want them to absorb most of the liquid) or dumplings and heat through before serving. You can also add shrimp, cooked chicken or beef, vegetables that do well raw or lightly cooked (radishes and snap peas, for instance), and fresh herbs like cilantro or Thai basil. Put your chosen extras in a bowl and pour hot broth over the top to keep shrimp from getting rubbery, vegetables from losing their crunch.

Strain out the star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and unpeeled ginger before serving. Garlic and scallion can be removed if you want just broth, but I tend to leave them in.

comforting broth, unstrained, before adding dumplings