In the past couple of years El Paso has seen an explosion of ramen noodle places opening up to give everyone their trendy fix of broth, noodles, and that fantastic soft-cooked boiled egg, but I would rather eat a delicious bowl of sopa de fideo.

There are so many ramen places all over town now that you could eat at a different one for weeks and not repeat them, but me, I'll stick with a warm cup of sopa de fideo and a bit of cilantro to warm me up on these cold El Paso winter days. Just like ramen, sopa de fideo is a basic soup that you can personalize to fit your own tastes but there are some rules to follow.

First, you gotta have a great broth. It is the most important ingredient of sopa and it has to be homemade. You can either use chicken broth or vegetable broth, but it has to be the real deal. There is nothing to making chicken broth. You don't need a whole chicken, just the bony parts like wings, necks, and the back bone. You can usually find these at a Mexican grocery store or ask a butcher for them. Bring a lot of them to a boil in a stock pot with onion, garlic, celery, a bit of rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and then reduce to a simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Skim while it's cooking to get rid of the fat or strain through cheesecloth after it's cooked.

To assemble the sopa de fideo, brown some fideo or broken up spaghetti in a bit of olive oil or butter until the pieces are nicely browned. Cook the spaghetti in the broth but remember, you don't want a lot of fideo or spaghetti. This is mostly broth with a little bit of noodles. Puree a couple of tomatoes in a blender a clove or two of garlic and add to the broth as the noodles cook. Some people strain the tomato at this point but I don't. You do you. Simmer until the noodles are cooked, serve with a bit of cilantro and lime for the traditional sopa or with a bit of leftover chicken or other protein for a little hardier meal, but sopa is supposed to just be an accompaniment to a meal, not a whole meal, that's why you make caldo de res or chicken soup.

I dig me some ramen, but my heart belongs to sopa de fideo.

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