- 3 pounds chicken or pork
- mung bean sprouts
- 2 carrots, sliced into half moons
- 1 large zucchini, sliced into half moons
- Chili peppers, sliced (can be serranos, jalapenos, Thai mouse poop, finger chilies, any small, hot pepper will work)
- Cilantro (remove the leaves and reserve the stalks)
- Rice noodles (sometimes called “rice sticks”, any size, I prefer medium or small)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2-3 cubes Knorr pork or chicken soup base/bouillon (or another brand)
- Dark soy sauce (see photo of Thai sauces) (or Golden Mountain [or Maggie] seasoned soy sauce)
- Fish sauce
- 1.5 teaspoons ground coriander seed
- sesame oil (toasted)
- spring onion, chopped (optional)
- 3-6 medium boiled eggs (bring water to just a boil and cut the heat and let the eggs sit for an hour)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (rice or white)
- Dried chili powder (or Sriracha sauce)
Let me first say this is simply my version of the recipe. It’s not wholly traditional (zucchini?!) but tastes very similar to what you would get in you order soup noodles in Thailand. There are hundreds of permutations on how to make this and they’ll all probably come out good, so I am going to go over the basics, give lots of options along the way and let you take it from there.
Let’s start with the meat–the morning or noontime of the evening you will make the soup. Take about 1/3 of your chicken or pork (leave the other two-thirds in the refrigerator) and chop it until it’s like a very coarse ground meat texture. Put about a table spoon and a half of dark soy (or a tablespoon of Golden Mountain and half tablespoon of sugar) plus 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and mix into the meat. Let marinade the rest of the day.
Now, lets move to an hour before serving time. Cube or slice the remaining meat (I cube chicken but slice pork–can’t tell you why, I just seem to do it that way) and get all your other ingredients ready. In a large pot, put in some peanut oil and brown the chicken. When brown, toss in the onion for a minute, then the garlic, carrot and zucchini. Now add water. Probably 2 or 3 quarts depending on how much broth you want. Bring to a boil and add two-thirds of whatever soup base (bouillon) you are using, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and the coriander powder. Also, smash the stalks of cilantro (or use smashed cilantro roots if you can find them) and chuck in as well. Simmer for 15 minutes then taste. If it’s not salty enough, add another bouillon cube or more soup base. Simmer an additional 15 minutes.
While your simmering, prepare the ground meat and noodles. For the ground meat, simply fry in a wok or another pan and set aside. For the noodles, boil them until tender, then drain and rinse (this is not Italian noodles, so indeed rinse them!) and set aside.
When the soup is almost done, remove the cilantro stalks/roots, add vinegar, sugar and a teaspoon sesame oil.
Assembly: In the largest soup bowls you have, put a portion of noodles in first, the some sprouts, some ground meat, a whole or half boiled egg, as many chilies as you want and at least a table spoon of cilantro leaves. Ladle the boiling soup (making sure to get some veggies and meat) in to each bowl.
Traditional condiments to add now would be chili powder, vinegar with chilies, fish sauce and sugar. I usually sweeten the entire soup enough that sugar is not necessarily needed. I use sriracha sauce (like you might with Vietnamese pho) instead the chili powder and vinegar. If I want more salt I add fish sauce. Anyway, then just mix all together and eat.
Let’s talk variations. In the pictures above you may notice some asparagus (initially uncooked) in there. Why? Because I had 5 or 6 stalks (uncooked) in the fridge. Broccoli, spanich, kai lan (Chinese broccoli), baby corn, cauliflower, or almost anything you can think of can be added. Just add at the appropriate time for cooking–I added that asparagus with 5 minutes to go or it would have been nasty green and all mushy. You can use almost any meat and combination: Ground marinaded pork with chunked chicken; Chunked pork with turkey sausage; Sliced beef and Spam–it really doesn’t matter.
Below are three different batches. The one of the left is the above batch. Next to it you may notice there is sausage in there with sliced pork (and no egg). The far right is almost the same as above but with sliced and ground pork. Click the picture to enlarge it. Sometimes I don’t even bother with noodles and just substitute tons of sprouts–and yes, they actually do that in Thailand too! You can also make your own stock if you have enough bones and time on your hands. The most important things are: For the stock; the coriander seed power (or whole seeds if you are making your own stock), smashed garlic cloves and cilantro stalks or roots. For the bowl; sprouts, vinegar, sugar, cilantro leaves and chili (sauce or powder).