Sunday, March 15, 2009

Noodle soup

I'm afraid I'm not like some people who travel to Asia and are sick of rice and noodle soup within two weeks. I rarely craved western food during my 6 months away, in fact I got so used to having a bowl of noodle soup almost every day that I'm craving it back home.

The ingredients that go into a good noodle soup are a mystery, as every establishment is different. Recreating that in my home kitchen has been an exercise in creativity. I do have a good few Asian cookbooks, most with authentic recipes, but I haven't quite got around to making up my own stock yet. So in true fusion style, I've taken a hint from each of the different recipes and had a go at my own.

First step is a good vege stock, salt free. Then add salt in the form of shrimp paste, that disgusting smelling stuff that definitely adds a certain distinctive taste to asian dishes. A bit of ginger, some chilli (that's a no brainer) and then some chopped up vegetable. I started with Chinese radish but progressed to sweet potato as the stock got low and then topped up again over a number of days. I should have added lemon grass, but forgot.

Each time I added just a little bit more of this and that, some coriander, bit more shrimp paste, some fish sauce, to try and get that taste. Some chopped up tomato seems to work well. The first few times it was somewhat bland, but I think I almost got it by the final attempt, and now I have to start from scratch again as the stock is all gone. No matter, it's now a challenge!!

What I really love about noodle soup is choosing the noodles (two minute noodles are a very poor substitute for rice noodles) and throwing in all the other greens and veges that are part of the experience when eating in a local restaurant or market. I've been using tofu as my protein, but occasionally it's a small piece of beef that I'll grill then chop up to garnish. Top with spring onion and a bit of coriander, add a bit more fish sauce or chilli depending on your personal taste, and chow in. Chopsticks and ladle of course!

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