October 27, 2009

Home cooking: Part II

Soups will definitely become a feature of this blog, mostly because there are so many varieties in SE Asia, but also because they are quick to prepare and cook, filling, tasty and healthy – what more could you want! Coming from a huge pizza lover (I’ll take the Quatro Formaggi anytime – extra Parma Ham if it’s going…), it’s always great to find things that you can’t wait to get home and cook, but also leave you feeling guilt-free and satisfied.

Clear pork noodle soup was next on the menu during our home visit – I’m calling it this because I actually have no idea what the official title is, but it pretty much encompasses everything you need to know.

One thing that is new to me is preparing and cooking all the ingredients in advance (if necessary), and simply adding the broth into the serving bowls rather than lumping everything into the saucepan as you go. As you can see in the photo below, the bowls were filled with pre-soaked noodles (al dente), long, thin strips of pork, fried egg, white beetroot and small portions of chicken. The chicken broth was then simply added into the bowls along with some chopped coriander and spring onions just before serving.

I think there pros and cons to this method; one advantage is making sure all the ingredients retain their texture, rather than being overcooked or left soggy in the saucepan. However, I don’t believe that the flavours are really drawn out of the ingredients as much as they should be. On trying the soup, my thoughts were confirmed, as I didn’t really feel that I could taste many of the flavours, which was disappointing. There weren’t any condiments such as Nam Prik available on the table, only a chilli sauce which seems to be popular with the Vietnamese. I also couldn’t taste much seasoning in the soup which was a little disappointing.

However, I was introduced to a Vietnamese chicken noodle soup by a good friend of mine (thanks Ella!), which I have added to and adapted over the last couple of years, and am now feeling confident enough to share with the rest of you. If you’d like to try an alternative to the above, I have used introduced the Vietnamese idea of only cooking the necessary ingredients as I go. Find the recipe, as well as the vegetarian alternative, here.

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