Vietnamese-Style Noodle Soup

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When I travel, good food is always foremost on my agenda. As Napoleon said, An army marches on its stomach’.

When I can’t spare the time for a whole meal, I look for Asian-style fast food. I am very rarely disappointed when I find a good Vietnamese restaurant and order home-style noodle dishes flavoured with lemon grass, ginger and garlic.

Here is tasty soup with my own embellishments. It is a delicious, quick and easy, one-dish meal that is ideal for today’s hectic and hurried lifestyle. This fragrant dish is at once pleasing and nutritious. The rice noodles give the soup a delicate and light touch. If they are unavailable, dried egg noodles may be substituted. Feel free to add your own touches. Once the broth is made, the rest is assembled very quickly.

Ingredients

  • 50 g (2 oz) thin rice noodles
  • 225 g (8 oz) Chinese leaves (Peking cabbage)
  • 100 g (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 stalk fresh lemon grass
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 2 thin slices of fresh root ginger
  • 1 fresh red or green chilli, seeded and finely shredded
  • 1 teaspooon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
  • 4 whole spring onions, finely shredded

For the Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli powder or flakes
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the Garnish

  • Handful of fresh sprigs of coriander

Method

Soak the rice noodles in a bowl of warm water for 25 minutes then drain them in a colander or sieve. (If you are using dried egg noodles, cook them for 3-5 minutes in boiling water, plunge them in cold water, drain them thoroughly and toss them in groundnut oil.) Set them aside.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender, mixing them thoroughly. Let the mixture sit at least 10 minutes before using.

Cut the Chinese leaves into fine shreds, finely slicing them widthways. Then, finely shred the chicken. Peel the lemon grass stalk to reveal the tender, whitish centre and crush it with the flat of a knife. Then cut it into 7.5-cm (3-in) pieces.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the Chinese leaves and stir-fry for 1 minute. Then add the lemon grass, garlic, ginger, chilli, salt, pepper and soy sauce and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the stock, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the noodles and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the leaves are very tender.

Stir in the spring onions and chicken and continue to simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the coriander. Stir in the sauce, ladle into a large soup tureen and serve immediately.

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