At morning markets in Shan areas of Burma and northern Thailand, there is always at least one vendor selling this thick, smooth, pale yellow soup for breakfast, hot and enticing, often poured over fine rice vermicelli. Alongside they sell Shan tofu, either in large chunks to take home or cut up and dressed as a salad (see Shan Tofu Salad).

You don’t have to restrict yourself to breakfast, however: serve this vegetarian soup at any meal. On its own or over tender noodles, topped with chopped coriander or other fresh herbs, it’s comfort food par excellence.

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Ingredients

  • cups chickpea flour
  • teaspoons salt
  • 8 cups water, or more as needed
  • ¾ pound fresh rice vermicelli or soba noodles or ½ pound dried rice noodles (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped coriander

Optional Toppings and Condiments

Method

Combine the chickpea flour and salt in a medium bowl and add 2 cups of the water. Whisk well to blend and to get rid of any lumps (if you are having difficulty getting it perfectly smooth, press it through a sieve). Set aside for the moment.

Bring the remaining 6 cups water to a boil in a wide heavy pot, then lower the heat to medium-high. Whisk the chickpea mixture one more time, then, using a wooden spoon, stir continuously as you slowly add it to the boiling water; the liquid will foam at first. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring to ensure that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot. After about 5 minutes the mixture will be smooth and silky, with a sheen to it, and thickened. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring for another couple of minutes. (If you are not going to serve it immediately, cover tightly to prevent a skin forming and set aside. When you want to reheat it, add a little water to loosen it, since it will thicken as it cools, and heat over medium heat. Whisk a little as it heats to prevent lumps from forming.)

If serving noodles bring a pot of water to a boil and toss in the noodles: fresh ones will cook in 1 or 2 minutes; dried ones will take about 5 minutes. Lift the noodles out of the water and set aside.

Put out any or all of the suggested toppings and condiments, as you choose.

Serve the soup sprinkled with the coriander. Or, if serving the soup over noodles, place some noodles in each bowl, ladle the hot soup over, and sprinkle on the coriander.

Invite your guests to help themselves to the array of toppings and condiments, then stir it all together and eat with pleasure.

Note: If you have soup left over, pour it into a bowl and refrigerate. In a few hours, it will set into Shan tofu.

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