This is one of those great last-minute soups. The flavor of the lemongrass infuses into the broth in about 20 minutes. The lime leaves, cut into fine slivers, are added at the very end. Serve as part of a Burmese-style rice meal or as a simple but elegant soup course in a Western meal.
Pour the broth into a large pot and set it over medium heat. Trim the tough root end off the lemongrass, smash with the flat side of a cleaver or heavy knife, make several lengthwise cuts in each stalk, and add to the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes to infuse the broth with the lemongrass.
Add the pepper. Taste and add salt as well as a little fish sauce if you wish (seasoning will depend on the broth you are using). Scatter the lime leaf slivers or coriander over the soup and stir in.
Chicken Soup with Noodles: At a small stand near the Bothataung Temple in Rangoon, a woman sells a hearty noodle version of this soup. The broth is served in a small bowl on the side, to accompany a noodle salad: a large bowl of rice noodles mixed with strands of Shan tofu and dressed with shallot oil, fish sauce, crushed roasted peanuts, dried red chile powder, toasted chickpea flour, and chopped coriander. You take a mouthful or two of the noodles, then have a sip of soup.
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