Monday, 1 June 2015

Almost Asian

Zuppa Asiatica con Vermicelli di Riso
Asian-Styled Rice Noodle Soup


After the miserable weather today, the cold and the wind and the rain, I got home craving something warm and comforting... And there I was, with bean sprouts that I had planned using in a salad! Ha! So much for that this weather!

So rather than making a rice noodle salad, I decided to make a rice noodle soup instead! I just improvised, using what I had at home and in the fridge... And although it is probably not like any authentic Asian recipe... It was MY recipe... And it tasted SO good!


See how rich and delicious that looks? Well. It tasted that way too... Which is amazing considering how few and how basic the ingredients that went into it were... Which made me love this all the more!

It did take an hour to prepare, but it basically just simmered away all by itsel, so that was fine... The important thing is that I was rewarded by a warming, spicy, tangy, satisfying and yes, really comforting meal to end my day... It almost made up for the rotten weather and the fact it was Monday, lol!


So few ingredients and so much flavor! For my nice, big bowl of soup, I needed: 1 portion of rice vermicelli, 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, 1 small onion, 1 chili pepper, some Chinese chives, 2 handfuls of bean sprouts, a little fresh ginger, 1 lime, 1 tablespoon of shrimp paste, a little fish sauce for seasoning, sesame oil for frying and some fresh mint and basil.


This was a purely improvised affair, based, basically speaking, upon a simple broth made from the water that the shiitake mushrooms soaked in and the shrimp paste. I decided to fry the other ingredients, chopped into a fine dice, at the end, along with the aromatic herbs and the lime juice. Why? Well, instinct more than anything and a few reasons based on simple kitchen experience... Read on and I will tell you as we go along...


The first thing I did was to soak the mushrooms in boiling water for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, I finely chopped the other ingredients, and as soon as they had softened, I also cut the mushrooms into bite-sized slices.


I seasoned the mushroom broth with a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce and of course, added enough water so that I would have enough for my bowlful of soup. I added 1 tablespoon of shrimp paste, stirred it in and let the broth simmer for 40 minutes. Which left me loads of time to prepare my little extras... And to have a nice rest and a drink whilst I waited! Lol!


In a small frying pan with just a little sesame oil, I stir-fried the onion, ginger, chili and half of the chimes chives until they were lovely and golden brown.

After around 40 minutes of simmering, the broth was rich and delicious and the mushrooms soft and tender... Time to add the noodles, the bean sprouts and the remaining Chinese chives. I stirred the noodles into the broth using a pair of tongs and as soon as they had loosened up, I turned off the heat and let them sit and gently cook through for 5 minutes before serving.


I squeezed in the juice of half of the lime and set the other half out in slices, to be added to taste, should one prefer it. I also set out the mint and basil leaves, and the finely chopped and stir-fried ginger, chili, onion and chives... Again, to be added to taste.


And as you can see- I for one am not afraid of enjoying some strong flavors! And enjoy them I certainly did!


Once the heat of the chili, the rich flavor of the mushrooms and shrimp, the sweet onion, savory chives and tangy lime all combine with the fresh mint and perfumed basil... Well! I don't think I can even begin to describe the wonder of that great combination in more poetic or accurate terms!

So I won't even attempt to! I will suggest you try it out for yourselves instead... There is after all only one way to know for sure!

To the kitchen!!!

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