Thai Noodle Soup

Providing your not struck down by Delhi Belly, too often, street food remains the only way to savour local food at its best if you find yourself lucky enough to be in foreign parts.

Sitting on a dusty plastic stool watching a small Thai man ladling steaming stock broth into a deep bowl filled with glass noodles, small slivers of chicken and topping it off with green citrusy herbs and hot fresh chilli, is my most sublime memory of Bangkok.

Street Food Feast

Out of one corner of your eye you watch the bright green VW beetles whizzing round the Zocalo in downtown Mexico City, while the rest of your body is finely attuned to the tiny old lady  in front of you. And, in front of her, the accoutrements of her trade; large, round, green, crispy tortillas piled high, an array of salsas, advocado, chilli, tomato, maybe some shredded cheese: “a gusto, a gusto”, she urges, keen to serve the hungary businessman waiting patiently behind for his tostada, or taco, or quesadilla, or gordita or picada…..hmmm…Oh Si Si…

How about a banana leaf topped with boiled yucca, sharp cabbage salad and a hunk of crispy pig skin courtesy of a young Nicaraguan girl, this delicacy sounds unusual but is in actual fact utterly delicious. And the simple cabbage salad served throughout Central America is just fresh shredded cabbage, lime juice and salt – delectable and incredibly easy to remember.

Often, trying to recreate a dazzling dish once back at home, can feel frustratingly impossible, but only because each mouthful and memory is steeped with the exotic overtones particular to you in that wonderful moment – and those memories you cannot make.

Yet it is in the trying, and the eating, that you can sit back and and recall that mouth-watering epiphany.

Chicken is one of the few meats I buy with regularity and its stock is normally what I crave once the carcass has been devoured by my family. Inevitably, I endlessly try to recreate that first Thai soup I had so many years ago each and every time.

Simple, filling, nutritious and delicious, the binlids adore it now as much as I do. And one day, I imagine they will taste the original for themselves, but will they be reminded of their mum? Or of being sat in a busy street clamouring with noise and heat.

Thai Style Noodle Soup

Onion diced
Garlic sliced
Ginger as above
Hot chicken stock
Glass Noodles or any noodles
Peas
Bok choi
Spring onions
Lettuce
Chard
Any manner of greens – basically
Fresh mint and or corriander
Fresh chilli finely cut
Lime wedges
Fish sauce

Saute the onion, garlic and ginger until golden and soft, add steaming hot chicken stock to the pan. Throw in the noodles and stir with a fork or chopsticks to separate – cook as instructed on packet – no more than a few minutes. Prepare your greens to throw in at the last minute: peas, green beans, bok choi, spinach, chard, lettuce, into the steaming broth – you want them crunchy.

Serve with a squeeze of lime, a drop of fish sauce, some fresh coriander, mint, sliced spring onions and finely sliced chilli – enjoy.

Soup de jour – chou, chou

The Time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things.
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – and cabbages – and kings…

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Ahh, yes, cabbage. Man, oh man, is cabbage the humble British vegetable, often unloved, regularly unwanted, but not here my friends, not any more.

Cabbage is a treasure trove of a staple, it lasts for ages in the fridge and is peanuts to boot. This little beauty was grown on Salisbury Hill, just outside Bath, by my buddy Mikey Mike – the vegetable king – it is fresh, crisp and ripe for scoffing.

Soup is a staple in my house and this one I make religiously; simple vegetable soup with fresh cabbage thrown in at the last. This number, also known as the cabbage soup diet, will have some folks despair at how they ate bowlfuls; day in, day out for weeks, in a desperate bid to loose weight. That it will do for you, oh yes! But it will also make you utterly sick of a very hearty, yet prudent soup.

For me, and I fast twice a week, this prince of a soup always comes up trumps. It is less than 80 kcal a bowl and it hits the spot when your hungry and it is freezy windy outside the front door.

Method
One tin of tomatoes
One small onion, or a handful of shallots
Two to three cloves of fat juicy garlic crushed
Two or three stalks of celery sliced finely
(any other vegetables will do here: courgette, peas, spinach, leek…if you insist etc)
A tiny dot of olive oil.
Cabbage fresh & shredded
One litre of bouillon or other stock
S&P
Good handful of fresh parsley (if you’ve got some)

Gently sweat your onions, garlic and the celery in your dot of olive oil. Add the tomatoes and the stock and gently simmer for 15-20 minutes. Tomatoes always taste their best if they are given plenty of time and are cooked over a low heat – they will transform into the delectable fruit they truly, truly are.

When you are ready to eat – season well with a good crunching of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper – add the cabbage at the last minute, allow it to wilt for a minute or two. If you have some fresh parsley throw that in too. Serve and enjoy this hearty, healthy, nutritious and warming soup.

To make this more of a meal for children add some chick peas or other legumes or even some stellini – tiny star shaped pasta. Serve it with a stack of home-made bread and butter….hm hmmmmm.