Chicken, Prawn and Noodle Hotpot

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Almost every meal I had when I was travelling in Vietnam included a delicious soup, or hotpot as they often call them there. I created this recipe as a memory of those soups.

At a Vietnamese meal all the dishes are put on the table at once, rather than one following the other as in a Chinese meal. However, this kind of hotpot is perfect as a light meal in itself. If you can get all the ingredients prepared in advance it only needs a little last-minute cooking.

Ingredients

  • 100 g/4 oz thin Thai or Chinese wheat noodles
  • 5 cm/2 in piece fresh ginger
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 4-5 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
  • 2 fresh red chillies
  • 2 skinless chicken breast fillets
  • 1.2 litres/2 pints chicken stock
  • 50 g/2 oz coconut milk powder
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • mixture of salad leaves and plenty of fresh mint, to serve
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 225 g/8 oz beansprouts
  • 225 g/8 oz large cooked peeled prawns
  • good handful fresh coriander leaves
  • salt

Method

Boil the noodles in salted water until just soft, then drain in a sieve, run through with cold water and leave on one side. Peel the ginger and garlic and chop finely. Chop the lime leaves finely, if using. Cut the chillies in half under running water, discard the seeds and stem, and cut into very thin strips. Slice the chicken breasts across fairly thinly. Bring the chicken stock to boiling point, add the coconut milk powder and stir to dissolve. Add the lemon juice.

Before cooking, mix up the salad leaves and mint and put them into a serving bowl. Put them on the table where you will eat.

Heat the groundnut oil in a wok or large saucepan over a medium heat, add the ginger, garlic and chicken, and stir around for about 2 minutes. Then add the lime leaves, if using, the chillies and beansprouts and stir around for another minute or two, until the beansprouts are limp. Now pour in the chicken stock mixture and stir in the cooked noodles. Bring up to bubbling, remove from the heat and add the prawns. Taste and add salt if necessary. Chop the coriander leaves roughly, add to the soup and pour into a heated tureen or large bowl. Serve at once and tell people to throw a good handful of the salad leaves and mint into their bowls.