Fresh or dried shitake mushrooms help give this vegetarian soup tons of flavor.

If using dried shitakes, soak 4-6 mushrooms in boiling water to rehydrate.  Reserve the water.

Soak 4 oz. dried rice noodles in cold water.

Thinly slice the rehydrated or fresh shitake mushrooms.

Trim 1 Leek then slice in half lengthwise and rinse to clean.  Slice into very thin julienne strips, 1-2″ long.

Wash 1-2 carrots and cut into julienne strips.

Mince fresh ginger to make 2 T.

Mince 2 cloves of garlic.

In a medium sized soup pot, saute the garlic and ginger in 1 T. safflower oil for 3-5 minutes over low heat.  Add 1 quart vegetable or mushroom stock (including the water from soaking the dried shitakes, if using).

Add the leeks and carrots plus the mushrooms, 1 T. sesame or hot sesame oil, 2 T. oyster sauce, and 1 stalk of lemongrass chopped in 2-3 pieces,

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes or longer.

Drain the soaking noodles.

Rinse 4-6 chard leaves, then remove the stems from the leaves.  You can add the stems to the soup, chopped finely or discard.j

Roughly chop the leaves.  When you are ready to serve, remove the pieces of lemongrass and add the chard leaves and the drained noodles.

Season with salt or soy sauce and pepper.  Add chili oil to taste.