Restorative Ginger and Turmeric Noodle Soup


Here's the story behind a Chinese mother's restorative soups, and the noodle soup with ginger and turmeric curry paste that her daughter concocts in the winter for comfort food.

Ginger Turmeric Noodle Soup Recipe
Photo: Jennifer Causey
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
45 mins
4 servings

Growing up, my Chinese mother devoutly served tong (soup) every night; it was an ever-changing concoction formulated to treat whatever "afflictions" she believed were ailing her family. These ailments weren't necessarily sicknesses — sometimes just minor complaints such as a sniffle, a cough, a headache. The prime tenet of Chinese medicine is to restore the balance of yin (cool) and yang (hot). Having a cold signified too much yin in our bodies, so my mother would prescribe a soup to restore the yang forces. Her healing soups usually contained a mélange of meat, vegetables, fruits, ginger, ginseng, gingko nuts, goji berries, jujube dates, and more. They were often sweet, sometimes pleasingly savory, and at other times, intensely bitter. As a child, my mother would bribe me to drink bitter soup by offering me a small piece of candy with each sip; needless to say, it took me a long time to drink that particular elixir.

Nowadays, the principles of Chinese medicine remain strong in my life. When I'm feeling poorly, ginger is my go-to. Ginger is a yang food and is thought to aid digestion and restore balance in the body. I love to steep freshly sliced ginger in hot water for a quick pick-me-up or add copious amounts to my everyday foods. A bowl of ginger fried rice is as delicious as it is restorative.

During the winter months, this bowl of noodle soup is like a hug. The garlic oil adds an extra layer of aromatic flavor, a great way to bring cohesiveness to this curative bowl of soup. It's bolstered by a robust ginger and turmeric base, which offers deep, earthy flavors along with anti-inflammatory prowess. That ginger and turmeric curry paste is vibrant in both color and flavor and is a great recipe to add to your repertoire; I like to think of it as my "universal curry paste," as it can be used in so many tasty ways in addition to this soup. Whisk a tablespoon or two into eggs before scrambling, stir into Greek salad to make a memorable salad dressing, or use as the base for a Thai-style curry, chickpea stew, or a fragrant lentil soup. The paste can be frozen, so make a double or triple batch to ensure that you always have some on hand for a quick meal.


Ginger and Turmeric Curry Paste

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped

  • 5 medium shallots, roughly sliced

  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly sliced (about 1 1/4 ounces)

  • 3 serrano chiles, stems removed, roughly sliced

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/4 cup good-quality coconut oil

Garlic Oil

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 large garlic clove, very thinly sliced


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 4 cups vegetable stock (such as Swanson)

  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk

  • 10 ounces uncooked udon noodles

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

  • 1 (5-ounce) bunch Swiss Chard, stems removed, roughly chopped

  • 2 scallions, finely chopped

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

  • 1 lime, quartered


Make the ginger and turmeric curry paste

  1. Combine garlic, shallots, ginger, chiles, lime juice, cumin, turmeric, and coriander in a blender or food processor, and pulse until ingredients are finely chopped. Add coconut oil and pulse until ingredients form a smooth paste. (Keep any unused paste in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 7 days, or freeze in an airtight container.)

Make the garlic oil

  1. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high. Add the garlic slices and cook until sizzling, 30 to 40 seconds. As soon as you see any sign of browning, remove from heat immediately, as the garlic will continue to cook and turn completely golden in the hot oil.

Make the soup

  1. Heat a deep, high-sided skillet over medium-high and drizzle with olive oil. Add 1/2 cup turmeric and ginger curry paste. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in vegetable stock and coconut milk. Let simmer 6 to 8 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add noodles. Cook according to package directions for al dente. As soon as the noodles are al dente, drain and rinse under cold running water. Divide noodles evenly among 4 serving bowls.

  3. Season broth with salt. Turn off heat and stir in chard. To serve, ladle broth mixture over the noodles. Top with scallions and cilantro; drizzle with garlic oil. Serve with lime wedges.

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