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Okay, I know you all didn't sign on to go with every single new recipe I find. But this is incredible. It's weird to invent something and call it good; it sounds conceited. Apparently I'd make a lousy Heidi Swanson ;)

Wakame is a seaweed plant. In the package, dried, it is a hard, leathery substance that is more black than green. If you pop a piece in your mouth, it's salty and rich, probably the definition of umame. Apparently it's a good source of B vitamins, folate, iron. I need to find a cheap source of this, because it would be excellent to keep on hand.

I tend to go a little nuts when exposed to exotic Asian items, if you haven't noticed. They are a serious weakness, whether we're talking soup spoons or sweets or something like uncommon soy sauce. If you can find (and afford, omg) black garlic ($8.99 for two cloves at Whole Foods) and wakame (also WF, around $7), try this out. You end up with a complex, rich soup full of smooth, soft noodles and a tangy, savory, slightly sweet broth.

Black Soup

1-2 quarts vegetable stock (you may have to add it as the noodles and wakame soak it up, so start with one)
about 1/4 cup dried wakame, torn or snipped into tiny pieces (they swell a LOT)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil or something more interesting like hot chili, wok-style garlic, or sesame oil
3 tbsp (largish splash, about 1/2" out of the bottle, which is what I had left over) rice vinegar
about 1/8 to 1/4 cup pickled ginger slices, coarsely chopped, or fresh if you prefer (you will get a sweeter taste with pickled)
6 cloves black garlic, peeled and chopped, reserve 2 cloves' worth for garnish
bundle of chives or green onions, chopped, reserve about 3 tbsp for garnish
1 1-inch bundle black rice noodles or whatever noodles you prefer, enough for 2-3 servings

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the wakame and simmer/soak for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your black garlic and chives and set aside the garnish portions; add the remainder to the stock. Add rice vinegar and pickled ginger. You should still have time left on the clock; heat the oil to nearly scorching and saute the white garlic pieces. You are going to make brown, sweet, chewy caramelized goodness, so keep the heat high and the spoon moving.

When that's yielded you golden brown and fragrant garlic candy, drain off the excess oil (unless you got adventurous and used sesame oil, in which case that stuff is like gold and if you dump it I will KNOW and I will COME FIND YOU). Add the garlic to the soup. Raise the heat; bring to a boil. Drop in the noodles and cook per package directions (my black rice noodles took about 4 minutes).

Serve immediately with a sprinkling of your black garlic and chive mixture and a dash of good soy sauce if desired.

I used chicken in this, but I omitted it from the recipe because the texture wasn't complementary and this makes an excellent vegan dish otherwise.



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