Friday, 11 December 2009

Recipe of the year: Rick Stein's Hanoi chicken noodle soup with bok choi

My knowledge of Vietnamese food does not extend much beyond the pho joints along the strip in Richmond, Melbourne, Australia. But what you get there is a vast basin of rice noodles in a steaming, clean, delicately flavoured soup, topped with meat, chicken, or sometimes both, and enough bean shoots, lemon, chilli, Vietnamese basil and mint garnishes on the side to make a meal in itself. It is invariably good, and always cheap. Wouldn't it be great to be able to make pho here in Japan, where Vietnamese food is often so-so and invariably expensive??

I found a fantastic-sounding recipe on Andrea Nguyen's brilliant Vietnamese food blog way back, but it looked like it might be a weekend project, and I never quite got round to it. There is a recipe for beef pho in Les Huynh's Blue Ginger: The Colours and Flavours of Asia, but it calls for about 2 kg of beef, which seems a little extravagant, at least when you live in Japan. So you can imagine how happy I was so happy to find a Vietnamese chicken noodle recipe from Rick Stein that could be made in roughly an hour (most of which is waiting for the chicken to cool). If you've been reading along, you'll know that I am quite enamoured of late with Rick's work on Asian cuisines. And this recipe is a real corker. In fact, it made such an impression on me that I'm naming it my recipe of the year!

I have adapted Rick's recipe, which was for a Hanoi-style bowl-of-joy, to make it more closely resemble the "true" Melbourne pho experience. Thus, basil is in and coriander leaves out (in deference to the Young Man). I left the bok choi in, and like this addition. Also, Rick had 300 g of rice noodles feeding 6 people. I think 100 g per person is maybe more like it, and, with Japanese-sized ramen bowls, I reckon the broth is enough for 4. We might just be greedy, though (g). Certainly, we did have some chicken left over, but that is never a problem, is it?

The excerpt of Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey where I found the recipe did not give instructions for nuoc cham, that delicious all-purpose Vietnamese sauce that will take your bowl of soup right into the stratosphere. I use the one in Les' Blue Ginger, above, minus the water in this instance, as it is to go into soup. Nuoc cham explodes on the tongue with every taste sensation. Use more or less chilli and garlic to suit your taste. Note that this portion of the recipe uses Australian tablespoons which are 20 ml, or 1 non-Australian tbsp plus 1 tsp. You will probably have some left over. Which would be a great excuse for making this.

Hanoi chicken noodle soup with bok choi

Serves 4

A 1.2 kg chicken
25 g peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
12 spring onions, trimmed and halved
20 g garlic, sliced (around 5 cloves)
2 star anise
10 cm cinnamon stick
20 g dried shrimp
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
450 g bok choi [Saffron: in Japan, 2 packets of chingensai]
400 g 1 cm-wide flat rice noodles [S: I used a thinner variety]
4 tbsp fish sauce

100 g bean shoots
Large handful basil
20 g mint leaves
1 small red chilli, sliced very thinly [optional]
Lemon quarters

Nuoc cham to serve (Note: 1 tbsp = 20 ml)
2 long red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped [or to taste]
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tbsp shaved palm sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
(3 tbsp water)

1 Put the chicken, ginger, 8 of the spring onions, garlic, star anise, cinnamon, dried shrimp, peppercorns and 1/2 tsp salt into a deep pan in which the chicken fits quite snugly. Cover with 2 l of water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum as it rises, then lower the heat, cover and leave to gently simmer for 20 min. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for 40 min.

2 Separate the stalks from the leaves of the bok choi and finely shred them lengthways. Cut the leaves across into 3 cm-wide pieces. Slice the remaining 4 spring onions finely.

3 Lift the cooled chicken onto a plate and leave to cool. Drain the stock into a clean pan and discard all the flavourings except the shrimp. Skin the chicken, pull the meat from the bones and break it into chunky pieces.

4 Meanwhile, make nuoc cham. Pound chillies and garlic into a smooth paste with a mortar and pestle. Place in a clean jar and add remaining ingredients. Put the lid on and shake until well blended. Nuoc cham will keep in the fridge for around a week.

5 Bring a pan of unsalted water to the boil. Add the noodles, turn off the heat, cover and leave to soak for 10 min or until tender.

6 Bring the stock back to the boil, add the bok choi stalks and simmer for 2 min, add the bok choi leaves and cook for a further 2 min. Then stir in the fish sauce.

7 Drain the noodles and divide among 4 large, deep noodle bowls. Top with cooked chicken, bean shoots, reserved shrimp, remaining spring onions, basil and mint leaves. Ladle the steaming hot broth and bok choi over the top and serve with the nuoc cham, lemon quarters and chilli on the side.


Cynthia said...

Happy New Year!

Saffron said...

Thanks, Cynthia! Happy cooking in 2010.