I haven’t posted in a while, but I’ve actually been eating the most exciting food I’ve had in my life the past few weeks. Exciting food is often coupled with good times, which I’ve been having my fair share of as well.
After an experience at a restaurant going rapidly downhill and at the sort-of nudge by a friend, I’ll be making a ramen post in the near future. Before embarking on a complicated and time consuming soup, I found it only right of me to share one that is, at the very heart of it, incredibly simple. Simplicity is its charm and damn is it ever bewitching. The soup comes together in about 20 minutes and makes 5 days worth of lunches you’ll be dreaming of, looking so forward to, come noon. The best part is you assemble it right before eating, resulting in exceptionally crisp vegetables and sturdy greens. While the ingredients list is long, they’re all things that round out a well-crafted pantry and, without them, I’d feel indescribably lost. These things should *just* *always* be within arm’s reach. I recommend a trip to an Asian grocery store, not due to necessity as most all of these items could be found at a traditional large grocery store, but because slowly strolling their isles is an especially good time. I also find it important to buy ingredients that pique your interest that you’ve never seen used before; that’s where ingenuity is born.
When I talk about exciting foods, this soup definitely fits the bill. Like a lot of my greatest kitchen creations, I noticed recently, I came up with this soup after getting 4 hours of “sleep” succeeding a night of exploring other dimensions (in the universe and in myself) without leaving the apartment. And, naturally, by that I mean getting liberally fucked up in controlled and familiar ways and savoring the shit out of it.
Those baby radishes were juust starting to peak out of the soil, almost saying ‘hey come get me, I’m bored and ready to die’. I can’t say I’ve never felt the same way. They’re encompassed by beet greens from plants that were too close or otherwise in the way; lucky for us as they’re best at this point. I put a couple small handfuls in the soup as well as diced a radish or two, per bowl, as a garnish. Once the radishes are out, which they will be by the middle of next week, we’ll be planting either more beets or (if it’s warm enough) tomatoes in their place.
The only thing cuter than baby plants are baby animals. Above is our neighbor’s 7 month old pup, Jaws, and our new gardening buddy. He gets so ecstatic while playing with toys (or large pieces of grass..) that he just falls over. It doesn’t seem to bother him any though, he just blissfully twists around on the grind, squinting in the bright afternoon sun, looking like the happiest thing to ever exist.
We store the broth and the rest of the ingredients separately, only to combine right before we’re about to eat. Burton brings a thermos filled half way with just-boiling broth and about 2 cups of vegetables, 1 cup of bean sprouts, 1 bunch of vermicelli noodles (the brand we currently use is made out of just peas, green beans and tapioca starch) and meat (usually shrimp or crab). Then he combines it all in the thermos and lets it cook for a couple of minutes.
I can pretty much assure you that this will be the best soup you’ve ever had. It’s so delicious and indulgent, it’s easy to forget that it’s also really healthy. After you make it the first time, you’ll be making regular batches of it every week. It’s just so good.
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 shallots, diced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and diced
1.5 – 2 quarts chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp pickled lemon grass (I add in a few tsp of fresh lemongrass as well, when I have it)
1 tsp pickled ramps (optional)
1 tsp whole coriander
1 tbsp shrimp paste
1+ tbsp chili oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sweet and sour peppers (about 30 peppers)
1 bunch of vermicelli noodles per serving
3 baby bok choy, chopped (leaves and stems)
1/4 cup thai basil, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 ear of corn (if not available on the cob just omit)
1/2 medium head of red cabbage
2 medium carrots
5 spears of asparagus (halved or quartered depending on their girth)
1 bunch of green onions or chives, diced
1 green pepper, diced
10-15 snow or snap peas
lots of bean sprouts, about 1 cup per serving
Heat sesame oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, once hot add the shallots and deeply brown. Add ginger, chicken broth, coconut milk, pickled lemon grass, fish and soy sauce, shrimp paste, sweet & sour peppers, vinegar and chili oil (or all ingredients up to the vermicelli noodles). In a large contain with a lid, combine the vegetables. Make sure everything is chopped small enough so that it cooks very quickly.
Here’s an example of Burton’s lunch, too cute and perfect not to take a picture of (much like the man eating it) from last week. I love sending him out the door with this because I know it’ll take care of him while we’re apart.