Fragrant Noodle Soup with Tofu and Sweet Pork

March 30, 2012 § 2 Comments

Last weekend I did something that I hadn’t done in a decade (such a shame).  I boarded a plane alone.  That plane took me from Seattle, over the clouds, to the desert.  It was my first trip to Arizona, a place that may be the exact opposite of the Northwest in March.  Green, wet evergreens were replaced by looming red rocks and dusty scrub.  Instead of low, heavy clouds there was vast blue sky.  And that blazing sun. I expected to feel sad to say goodbye to the sun and to return to a certain fate of months more of rain and gray in Seattle.  But when the plane descended through the clouds we were treated to an amazing view of Mount St Helens (I think).  And in just another moment we were over Lake Washington and my very own Seward Park, a dense forest right in the middle of my Emerald city.  Oh crud, I realized.  It’s happened. I’m a Seattleite.   Next thing I know I’ll be buying rain pants.

The truth of the matter is, I’ve adjusted to the constant drizzle and Seattle’s eternal spring that spans from February to July.  With that weather come many traditions I could not easily let go of: digging in our soggy garden, late afternoon fires, and big bowls of steamy soup.  Of course, I will still complain about the weather.  Because I’m cranky like that.

This soup is my family’s ultimate comfort food.  When my kid dragged though the door this week with a red snuffly nose, I was so glad I had chicken stock in the freezer.  Fresh from a weekend of being Hannah Morgan, the individual, I was totally ready to dive into nurture mode.  A bowl of this soup, flavored with star anise and ginger, fixes you right up.  This is a very accommodating recipe, so change the ingredients to suit your tastes.  The best part is the array of little bowls filled with delicious bits.  Everyone at the table can dress up their soup just the way they like it.

Fragrant Noodle Soup with Tofu & Sweet Pork

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

For the soup:

6 C chicken stock

2″ piece of ginger, peeled & sliced

4 pods of star anise

10 stalks of cilantro

1/4 C fish sauce

8 oz tofu, fried or fresh

1 lb dried flat rice noodles

For the pork (from a recipe by Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid):

1 lb ground pork

2 Tbsp tamarind paste dissolved in 1/2 C warm water

2 Tbsp canola oil

3/4 C shallots, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp salt

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled & minced

1/4 C roasted peanuts, finely chopped

For garnish:

fried shallots

2 C napa cabbage, shredded

4 scallions, white and light green parts only, minced

1/2 C cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 C roasted peanuts, finely chopped

1 lime, cut into eighths

fish sauce

chili sauce

METHOD

For the Soup

1. Add the chicken stock, ginger, star anise, cilantro and fish sauce to a stock pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer while you prepare the pork, or about 30 minutes.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook noodles until they’re just soft, about 3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

For the Pork

1. Heat the canola oil in a frying pan over high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and stir-fry until golden.  Add the pork and cook until it changes color, about 5 minutes.  Add the sugar, the tamarind juice, the fish sauce & salt and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger & peanuts a cook for another minute or two.  Pour the mixture into a bowl until ready to serve.

To Serve

1. Use a slotted spoon to remove the aromatics from the pot of broth. Add noodles & tofu to each person’s bowl, and pour the broth over.  Arrange the pork and the garnishes in bowls at the dinner table and allow each diner to customize their bowl of soup.

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