VIETNAMESE RECIPES |
We get sick so easily.
We yarn for comfort food.
I’m thinking of my grandma as I’m looking through the window.
I’m suddenly remembering what she was cooking when I was a kid.
At that time, I was so young I wasn’t really aware that what she was doing was so important : she was cooking to feed me with healthy food. It looked a little like she was playing with plasticine. She was forming white dough balls, then flattening and cutting them with a knife. I remember she used to cover the whole kitchen flour with paper. She would then spread all those freshly cut noodles and leave them there to dry. She was actually using her kitchen the same way she was using it when she was still living in Vietnam in a situation of insecurity and poverty due to the war. In fact, it’s very disturbing to be suddenly propelled in a safe but foreign world where you no longer need to watch your every steps, fear true or false denunciations, be suspicious of your neighbour’s intentions, be on your toes for any news about the war so as to be able to escape on time if needed. It’s not so easy to let go of old survival skills you developed in the past. You hold on to old habits, such as simple things that make you feel secure. Isn’t food one of such things? Doesn’t food remind you of where you come from? Those ideas were bouncing in my head as I was looking through the window on that winter day. In a second I decided I would make a noodle soup and share the recipe on this blog. Our cooking conditions were very different from my grandma’s as this family cooking reunion took place in my older sister’s brand new and ultra modern kitchen. Yet, we cooked in her honour and her memory.
For the stock and chicken garnish:
- 1 free-range chicken
- 3 small carrots
- 3 small turnips
- 2 small onions
- 1 thumb-size piece of ginger
- 2 big white cabbage leaves
- half a dozen of peppercorns
- 4-5 litres water
- nước mắm (fish sauce)
- five-spice powder (pepper, star anis, cinnamon, cloves, fennel)
- olive oil
For the noodles:
- 1 pack rice flour (about 500 gr)
- 1 pack tapioca flour (about 500 gr)
- 1 litre boiling water
- 1 pinch of salt
- some neutral oil
For the garnish:
- soybean sprouts
- fresh cilantro
- fresh spring onions
- fresh thai basil
- fresh tía tô herb
(I’ll translate the article about aromatic herbs soon)
First, wash the chicken both on the inside and the outside. In this recipe, we’ll use the chicken carcass, thigh bones and chicken wings for the stock. We’ll use the remaining meat as chicken garnish in each bowl. Once clean, cut up the whole chicken. Here’s a nice little video if you’ve never done it. Watch out for your fingers! Cut the carcass into several pieces for the stock with a knife or with scissors. Debone the chicken thighs (video here) and set the meat aside. Cut all bones into small pieces as well as the wings.
Let’s start with the stock. Heat some oil in a pot and brown the bones and wings. Once they have released their juices, add water and one clean onion.
Wash, clean and cut the turnips, carrots, ginger, and the remaining onion. Grill them to release their full flavours and put them in the stock together with the peppercorns and cut cabbage leaves. Add salt and bring to a boil. Be careful to remove all the foam that will be released right before the stock boils with a skimmer. Keep removing the foam as long as needed. The stock should be clear and free from impurities. Once the stock starts boiling, lower the heat and let simmer. Ideally, it should simmer for at least 1h30.
In the meantime, let’s prepare the chicken garnish. Mix 2 tablespoons of five-spice powder with olive oil, and moisturise the chicken meat with this mixture. Leave to marinade in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Let’s get on to the homemade noodles now! In a big bowl, mix the rice and tapioca flower together. Keep some aside in a little bowl to flour your worktop later on. Add salt to the mixture, form a well and slowly add a little oil, then the boiling water while mixing. I used a hand mixer with dough hooks for more convenience. If you don’t own one, don’t mix with your hands as it’s boiling water. A wooden spoon should do the job.
Here, you have to ‘feel’ the dough. Depending on how you feel it, don’t use the whole litre of water because each flour reacts differently. In my case, I think I used about 850 ml water. In the end, the dough was a little dry so I had to slightly rework the dough by wetting my hands with warm water before flattening it with a rolling pin.
Once the boiling water has cooled down, work the dough with your hands until flexible and soft. Cover and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, let’s not forget about the chicken! The oven should be hot by now. Let’s put the marinated chicken in the oven for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 to 5 parts. If necessary, rectify its consistency (add more flour if too wet, or rework the dough with wet hands if too dry). Flour your worktop and your rolling pin, and flatten each dough ball. Cut them with a knife into 5 mm thick noodles.
Flour the noodles to prevent them from sticking together. I hear you … it’s a lot of work right? OK, for this recipe, you can also use fresh Japanese udon…
Is the marinated chicken ready? Let’s not forget to take it out of the oven!
Bring water to a boil with salt and cook the freshly made noodles for about 10 minutes. When they’re ready, drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking (otherwise they’ll stick together), then with lukewarm water. Add some oil to further prevent them from sticking together. Everything is ready and all we need to do now is to put everything together!
Season the stock with salt and nước mắm (fish sauce). Bring to a boil since you want to serve a really hot bowl of soup. The stock should be clean and free from impurities.
Cut the marinated chicken into pieces for the garnish. Fill each bowl with cooked noodles and some pieces of chicken. Add boiling chicken stock as well as chopped coriander and spring onion.
Serve with soybean sprouts and aromatic herbs!
Enjoy, and stay tuned for the next recipe !