Sunday, January 3, 2010

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Ever since I was a little girl, this has been one of my favorite meals that my mom made.  Now that I live in NYC, I make it for myself.  This is my version of my mom's recipe that can be easily modified to suit your own tastes, or to use up whatever produce you happen to have on hand.  I almost always add shitake mushrooms (either fresh or dried - if dried you can soak them with the noodles to rehydrate), cilantro and red onion.  But if you have some leftover bok choy, napa cabbage or bean sprouts they all work fabulously in here too.  Furthermore, if you have been ambitious and have some homemade chicken stock in the freezer then obviously use that in place of the bouillon cubes that I used here.  This is my ghetto pantry version as I rarely have homemade chicken stock on hand.

Recipe after the jump!

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 cups water
chicken bouillon cubes
3 bundles bean thread vermicelli noodles
2 whole star anise
1 fresh lemongrass stalk, or 1 tsp dried lemongrass
1-inch section of fresh ginger, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 large red onion (or 1 shallot, halved)
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tbsp Asian fish sauce
6 fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

Fill a large saucepan with 6 cups of cold water.  Place on stove and bring to boil over high heat.  Once water is at a rolling boil, add bouillon cubes (follow the instructions for your bouillon cubes - my bouillon cubes specify 1 cube per cup of water, so I used 5 cubes in 6 cups of broth with the intent of reducing my broth and intensifying the flavors).  Then add star anise, lemongrass, ginger, onion, black peppercorns, sesame oil, and fish sauce.  Lower temperature to medium.  Allow broth to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Soak vermicelli noodles in boiling water with a splash of sesame oil until softened, roughly 10 minutes.  Drain completely.

Pour broth through fine mesh strainer.  Return to saucepan and return to simmer.  Add chicken breasts and poach until cooked through, roughly 10 minutes.  Remove chicken from broth, allow to cool until it can be handled.  Cut chicken into 1/2-inch think slices.  Meanwhile, throw mushrooms into broth and bring broth up to boil.  Taste broth and season with s&p to taste.

Assemble soups with fully drained noodles on the base, followed with chicken slices, then toppings.  Ladle broth over noodles and serve immediately.

** The idea with the toppings is that each person can make their soup to their liking.  I generally use chopped cilantro, thinly sliced red onion, chopped scallions, fried shallots (available in most Asian grocery stores), sriracha, and lime.

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