Colder weather means more time indoors. More time indoors for me can only mean ONE thing: Cooking. And lots of it! The last few weeks saw me hover from one ethnic market to another lugging back bagfuls of spices, sauces, condiments and flavourings, amidst baskets of colourful fresh produce. Yes, you could definitely say that the Holidays bring about the creative cook in me. I find myself waking up with my head full of ideas and flavour pairings. Then, a few minutes later, I’m dressed in my warmest layers running off to the store to pick up the items needed for my experiment.
This of course, has got Hubby Dear beaming with pleasure. Our dinners for the past few days have included the exotic flavours of various cuisines, fused together in a style that I deem myself an expert of. Warm velvety curries with hints of hot, sour, salty and sweet tones tease our palate. Vegetables have found new tasty ways to welcome themselves on our table. And soups, oh what can I say about the soups!
As I kid, I always connected soups to the kind of food one has when you’re sick in bed with a pounding headache and a runny nose. Our winter meals, although consisting of richly warm comfort food, somehow failed to include this food group altogether. As a busy working student stuck in the cold Canadian winter devoid of a mother’s culinary touch, I found throwing in a can of beans with some veggies and spices in a pot full of bubbling chicken stock made for a fairly quick, nutritious and decent enough meal. Over the years, my soup repertoire has grown immensely from the sorry state it once was, and now I can’t imagine going a week in the cold months without a bowl or two of soup to comfort me.
This chicken-noodle soup is as simple as it can get. And yet, has the ability to carry flavours as complex as you wish it to. My favourite way to serve this dish is to lay out all the ingredients in individual bowls to enable each of your guests to design their own meal. Add in what you like, as much as you like; and no matter how you do it, there’s no wrong way to enjoy it.
MAKE-YOUR-OWN CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
Prep time: 15 min | Cooking time: 10 min | Serves: 4
2 cups boiled rice vermicelli noodles
salt & pepper, to taste
For the Soup:
3 cups chicken stock
1-inch stub of fresh ginger
3 large cloves of garlic, slit halfway through the middle
1 stalk of lemon grass, cut into 2-inch pieces and pounded lightly to release oils
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
2 large fresh red chillies, slit halfway through the middle
For the Chicken:
1 chicken breast, sliced thinly into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp pure sesame oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup diced extra-firm tofu, light sauteed in a bit of oil
1 cup snow peas, sliced at an angle
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
1-2 large red chillies, finely chopped
a couple of wedges of fresh lime
Put all the ingredients for the soup into a large pot and let simmer on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes.
Mix chicken with soy sauce, white pepper, garlic powder and sesame oil, and saute in a non-stick pan till done.
To serve, divide boiled vermicelli noodles in large bowls, ladle with warm soup, and top with chicken and choice of garnish.