Getting rid of this cold: Thai “Chicken” Noodle Soup

I’m still trying to kick the cold I mentioned in my last post, but I did have the energy to make some illness-defeating soup last night: Thai “chicken” noodle.

Thai “Chicken” Noodle Soup
Adapted from http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaisnacks/r/chickenoodlesou.htm

12 oz flat rice noodles (wide or thin, your choice)
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
8 cups vegan “chicken” broth
1 thumb-length hunk of ginger, grated
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 huge carrot, sliced on the diagonal
1-2 stalks celery, sliced on the diagonal
1-2 chilies, sliced on the diagonal (depending on the heat level of the chili and how hot you want your soup)
1 stalk lemongrass, minced
2 bay leaves (use a few kaffir lime leaves instead if you have them)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups vegan “chicken” strips or “breasts”, pan-fried and chopped (honestly, this is really optional if you aren’t a fan of mock meats)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Put the rice noodles in a large pot and cover with cold water. Soak for 20 minutes (or longer), then bring water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, remove it from the heat and let the noodles sit until they are soft (this will only take a few minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until beginning to brown. Add the broth, ginger, lime juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. If you have a large tea strainer that closes, put the bay leaves and lemongrass in it and put it in the pot. (If you don’t have a tea strainer, add the lemongrass with the shallots and the bay leaves with the broth, remembering to remove the bay leaves later. I use the tea strainer because lemongrass never seems to get entirely soft for me and I don’t like eating hard bits of it in soup.) Bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, and chilies and continue to simmer until the carrots and celery are soft.

Add the coconut milk, chopped “chicken”, and cilantro and simmer gently for another few minutes.

To serve, put a heap of rice noodles in a bowl and ladle broth over them. I sprinkled mine with thinly sliced scallions and had some sriracha and lime wedges nearby.

This was an interesting change of pace and certainly had all the ingredients I look for in a make-me-feel-better meal (garlic, ginger, chilies, broth), although pho is my all-time favorite. I’d have made it tonight if I hadn’t been out of star anise!

Pictures of animals, you say? Here is a great blue heron. I see at least one of them every time I’m out. It’s weird.

Tree swallow.

Not an animal, but named for one: cattails.

And to wrap things up, a raccoon trying to steal cookies, probably successfully.

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Fastest Pad Thai Ever

I made some Faux Pho for dinner last night and made way too many noodles. So today when I was rummaging in the refrigerator for something to make for lunch, it was obvious I should base it around the leftover rice noodles, and maybe it was the peanut butter sriracha cookie I was nibbling while I thought, but the first thing that came to mind was pad thai. Now, pad thai is really not a very time consuming dish to make to begin with, so there is little need to try to speed it up. And traditionally there is no peanut butter in pad thai. But for a nearly-instant lunch, this was really very tasty. If, like me, most of your at-work lunches are leftovers, this is something you can whip together in three minutes before you leave the house and warm gently in the microwave at the office. I’m afraid my measurements – loose at the best of times – are non-existent here. It’s really up to you to balance out the sweet, salty, and sour flavors the way you like it.

Fastest Pad Thai Ever

cooked rice noodles (this is a great way to use up leftovers, which I tossed very lightly with sesame oil before storing)
peanut butter (smooth or crunchy is okay)
tamarind pulp or concentrate
soy sauce
jaggery (my favorite sugar, available in Indian groceries, and Wegmans is now carrying this product) or brown sugar
sriracha
protein, such as cubed tofu or shredded seitan (optional)
shredded or thinly sliced veggies (optional) – my Quick Pickled Carrots are perfect

Put the peanut butter, tamarind, soy sauce, jaggery or sugar, and sriracha in a blender in proportions that are pleasing to your palate and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust flavors. Thin with water and blend again. Heat for a minute or two in the microwave (or on the stovetop in a small saucepan), and then whisk. If your noodles are cold, warm them in the microwave for a minute or two. Toss everything together.


The pickled carrots are particularly brilliant here because the provide the extra tang that you usually get by squeezing a lime over your noodles, so if you don’t happen to have a lime on hand, you’re covered. For my protein, I used a handful of the shredded seitan chicken from Nature’s Soy, which I get at Super H. Top this with crushed peanuts, cilantro, and/or bean sprouts if you have them on hand, but if you don’t and you’re just going for super fast, this was quite tasty as is.

And today is a Torticia day. Torticia is a silly little animal. I think she’s getting a little pudgy, and although she and Gomez spend hours racing around the house all day, she’s been a bit lazy when I’m playing with her. Whereas Gomez leaps around like an Olympic gymnast trying to catch dangling toys, Torticia often rolls on her back and waits for the toy to come to her. She’s roly poly.

She’s lazy.

She takes naps to recover from naps.

She’s also an extremely cuddly, affectionate, friendly, tolerant, fuzzy, little ball of wonderfulness. This morning when I woke to her sleeping between my legs, as soon as she realized I awake, she snuggled up on my chest and purred and purred and purred and begged to be petted, and snuggled some more, and was basically so incredibly cute it brought tears to my eyes. She’s so loving and warm, and extremely soft and silky. It’s just a joy to touch her.

And then she goes and does something classy like this:

Although really she’s probably the most beautiful cat in the universe.

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Drunken Noodles, more authentic

The last time I made drunken noodles, I warned that it was not my usual drunken noodles and not remotely authentic. My “usual” drunken noodles are generally me standing around the kitchen throwing things together and making it really spicy. Last night I decided to “get authentic” and actually look at recipes for drunken noodles. I did what I usually do in those cases and read a bunch of recipes, kept it all in the back of my head, then went into the kitchen and worked something out that was a conglomeration of what I’ve read. This recipe probably weighed the most heavily.

One thing I learned is the basil used in real drunken noodles is not Thai basil, as I thought, but holy basil. I wish I’d thought of this before I went to Super H the other night because they have holy basil, but as it was, I had NO basil and was still determined to make the dish. Which right there probably eliminates it from the realm of “authentic”. I did throw in a frozen basil cube, though, for (completely the wrong) basil flavour. (I just typed “flavor” like a normal American and Firefox – which on my laptop thinks I’m British for some unfathomable reason – underlined it as a typo and I went back and “corrected” it. It’s very distracting for Firefox to keep telling me words are misspelled when they aren’t. Curiously, Firefox also insists that “Firefox” is misspelled.) I don’t really recommend the frozen basil thing though, because in addition to probably getting you mocked by serious Thai food connoisseurs, these noodles could really have used some green basil leaves snaking through them for the sake of appearance if nothing else. They weren’t all that pretty. Mark mysteriously announced that in the wok, it looked like Hamburger Helper. Trust me, that’s not what you want to hear when you’re going for an authentic ethnic meal.

The good thing about this recipe is it’s super fast. I prepped everything in about 10 minutes, then just waited for Mark to come home. When he arrived, it was just 10 minutes, if that, to prepare. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s mostly just sauces you’re mixing together at one time. Easy.

Drunken noodles should be very spicy; add as much heat as you can handle!

Drunken Noodles


6-8 oz wide rice noodles (banh pho)
2 Tbsp vegan oyster sauce (readily available in Asian grocery stores)
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp seasoning sauce (This is usually Golden Mountain seasoning sauce, which is a Thai condiment similar to Maggi seasoning. The second bottle from the left in my photo is a Vietnamese seasoning sauce with ingredients that look identical to Golden Mountain, so I’m assuming it’s pretty much the same flavour-wise. Substitute Maggi seasoning sauce and/or more light soy sauce.)
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (substitute more light soy, or omit if your mixture is too salty already)
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sambel olek
1 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar, white is fine)
6 oz chicken-style seitan or cubed tofu
1 cup holy basil, or Thai basil, or if all else fails, regular basil, or if you’re completely desperate, a frozen basil cube
3 large shallots or 1/2 onion, diced
4 cloved garlic, minced or pressed
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 can baby corn
1 jalapeno (this is what I used because it’s what I had; Thai peppers would be more appropriate if you have them)
2 Tbsp canned jalapenos, chopped (optional; I still had some leftover from the Mexican pizza and nachos)

Because I had the canned jalapenos I wanted to use up, I figured I’d make a cheater’s version of one of the condiments you get in Thai restaurants. I took the canned jalapenos and covered them in rice vinegar (and a splash of the vegan fish sauce for good measure, but that’s just because I have it and feel like I should be using it). If you don’t want to bother with doing this, just add the vinegar to the sauce in the next step instead.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster, soy, seasoning, and fish (if using) sauces, sambel olek, and sugar. Set aside.

Prepare the rice noodles according to package instructions. What I do is bring a pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the noodles and stir, and let them sit for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft. Keep an eye on them; they soak quickly this way. Drain and run under cold water when soft, then toss lightly with a bit of oil to keep from sticking.

Chop your shallots or onion, carrots, baby corn, and hot pepper. Mince or press the garlic. (Not pictured: prepare your basil.)

Heat some oil in a hot wok, then add the shallots and fry for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the carrots, baby corn, and hot pepper and fry for another couple of minutes, then add the garlic and fry another minute.

Add the tofu or seitan and fry another minute or two.

Mix in the noodles and basil.

My picture of the next step was too blurry to use, but add the sauce, mix well, and bring it all up to temperature. I added my jalapeno/vinegar condiment here because it was just me and Mark and we like it the same way, but you can also serve it at the table for guests to add to their own liking.

Bonus kitty picture:

It’s snowing here, heavier than they’d predicted. I was supposed to go up to Baltimore to see a friend I haven’t seen in several years, so I’m frustrated. Mark, despite the fact he spends most Saturdays sitting at his computer, is going stir crazy because he is being forced to sit at his computer instead of doing some myriad of unidentified outdoor activities he’d suddenly rather be doing, and keeps coming into my sunroom/library and dancing around like a maniac. Brachtune is the only content one. See above.

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