Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Noodle Soup 

It's only two weeks since I last made a soup using one of Angela Nilsen's recipes and I'm not sure what it was that attracted me to this particular one. It's in the winter vegetables section of The Soup Book, even though chicken breasts are listed among the ingredients. The other ingredients include chicken stock (I have an ample supply in the freezer), root ginger, coriander seeds, star anise, lemongrass, rice noodles, pak choi, Thai fish sauce, bean sprouts, coriander, mint leaves, spring onions, red chilli and lime wedges.

Having checked what the spouse would need to buy for the soup, I left the book lying open on the kitchen table and headed out on a couple of errands. It was a beautifully sunny morning and I enjoyed my walk around this little part of Dublin. On returning home I found the older offspring had left a note by the book. He'd written "ALL ABOUT THIS PHO!" When he appeared in the kitchen he explained that he had eaten and ejoyed pho in the far east.  He seemed very excited at the prospect of pho at home!

The first stage of soup making involved simmering the ginger, coriander seeds, star anise and lemongrass in the chicken stock. The aroma! Mmmm! The star anise was probably the dominant fragrance. Pak choi is not a vegetable that I have cooked often, so I had to look up which parts of it are used in cooking. I haven't cooked rice noodles before. The Soup Book recipe states that they should be soaked, but there were no soaking instructions on the packet.

As I was cooking the soup I listened to Pink Floyd's album Dark Side of the Moon, a favourite from my youth. Occasionally I found myself listening to the roars and yells of the spouse and the younger offspring as they watched a rugby match on the television - Ireland versus England (Ireland won at home - 24-8). Then all of sudden the soup was ready. I dished up for the spouse, younger offspring and myself and we tucked in just as the match ended and the ruck between the ageing Irish commentators began. We all enjoyed the soup. The spouse liked the contrast between the cooked ingredients and those that had been added just before serving.

Eventually, the older offspring arrived home and was all business about having his pho. Not for him the dainty arrangement of the rice noodles in the bowl, scattered with beansprouts before adding the hot soup. No. Throw the noodles in the pot, heat it all up and devour. 

Food and cooking are important in this house.We had a lovely feast on St Patrick's Day. My mother-in-law and a few friends joined us for a late Irish-themed lunch: smoked salmon on brown bread to start, followed by a rich steak stew with Guinness, then Irish cheeses. I also baked a frangipane tart. Strictly speaking, it's not Irish but I used Irish raspberry jam.

Bee (on) Time

The spouse sent me a link to an on-line cartoon strip during the week. I'm not sure how funny it is but it features a bee.

My own find was in the book I am currently reading: Simon Winder's Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern. He mentions mead and mead-halls, reminding me that the spouse and I once made mead many years ago during our country wine phase.

In his description of the town of Koenigswinter Winder refers to a mead-hall and a nearby stall 
"selling honey from oddly ornamented hives, one having a carved and painted cartoon of [a former U.S. president's] face covering its entrance so that the bees fly in and out of his mouth ... [In a nearby reptile zoo] a Louisiana alligator of appalling size and blankness ... lay almost submerged, with the enjoyable result that the innumerable bumps and dents in its back armour created natural drinking pools for the bees from the nearby [anti-presidential] hives. Every now and then the alligator would sink a little further in the water and the bees would spring up into the air and hover, waiting for the pools to re-emerge." (Pages 30-1)

What a strange place.


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