“This is one of the most nostalgic recipes from my childhood, a brothy chicken noodle soup that my mom would make on gloomy days. Because my hometown of Veracruz was once occupied by the Spanish, their use of saffron became ingrained in our regional cuisine. It gives the soup a vibrant orange-red tinge. The Spanish also brought fideos, skinny dried wheat noodles similar to angel hair, which we would fry and add to soups to give them color and a deep toasty flavor. You can find fideos at any Mexican market or online, or use dried angel hair pasta.
While frying the fideos, reserve a few extras off to the side to salt and eat while they are still crispy and hot. They are an addictive snack, and when I was a kid in Mexico, these were one of my favorite foods.” —Gonzalo Guzman and Stacey Adimando in their 2018 Beard Award–winning Nopalito.
- Half of a 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 cup rice bran oil or canola oil
- 1/2 pound fideos or dried angel hair pasta, broken into 5-inch-long pieces
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup (1/2 medium onion) diced white onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon loosely packed saffron
- 1 cup peeled, diced carrots
- Cilantro leaves
- Thinly sliced jalapeños
- Finely diced white onion
- 4 to 8 soft corn tortillas, warmed (optional)
Season the chicken with salt and place it in a large stockpot. Pour in 3 quarts water to cover the chicken; season the water generously with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; let cook for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, set a paper towel–lined plate next to the stove. In a large skillet, heat the oil until it registers 350°F on a deep-fat thermometer, then add the fideos. Fry until golden brown and crunchy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon or tongs and transfer to the prepared plate.
In a blender, purée the tomato paste, onions, garlic, saffron, and 1 cup water. Add to the pot with the chicken and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add the fideos and cook for 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the soup as needed.
Ladle the soup into 4 serving bowls and garnish with the cilantro, jalapeño, and onions. Serve with warm tortillas if desired.
Reprinted with permission from Nopalito, copyright 2017 by Gonzalo Guzman with Stacy Adimando. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright 2017 by Eva Kolenko