I Feel Better Soup

Last night a niggling rawness around the back of my throat and ears that I had been fending off for a week turned into an all-out head cold.

I am grumpy and a bit achy and all I want to do is curl up in bed. But before I do, I want a bowl of goodness. Something clear and steamy and fragrant, packed full of vitamins to help me feel better. I want medicine in a bowl – Luke Nguyen style.

Well, I thought I did until I googled “medicinal soup Luke Nguyen.” Up came what read like a recipe for a spell. Do you have any of these things in your pantry? Dried ginseng, dried lotus seeds, dried goji berries, dried black prune, dried lilly petals, dried longon, raisins, dried white vegetable root, salt. If you do, you should totally try Luke’s medicinal broth recipe with pork spare ribs.

I only had the salt and the raisins and a head that felt like cement, so I wasn’t inclined to go outside the house let alone go hunting for this list.

I looked in the fridge a few hours ago and thought I had enough bits and bobs in there to make up my own, loosely based on a simple chicken pho.

Now, with an empty bowl in front of me, I can declare it a success on the mere basis that I can smell and taste again (even if only temporarily) and my head feels clearer, care of the chilli, ginger, Vietnamese mint and basil combo.

I also used the base broth and the chicken, corn and noodles to make a milder flavoured version for Master N, who I caught this awful cold from. He happily downed it, slurping up the noodles like he does with “s’getti.”

Below is the recipe for my version of medicine in a bowl. Now I’m off to bed.

What is your best feel-good therapy when you’re under the weather?

Larissa xx

"I Feel Better" Soup

Serves 4

1 small chicken
4 French shallots or 2 brown onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 bunch coriander - stems bruised and roughly chopped. Set leaves aside for serving.
1 cardamom pod, bashed with the side of a knife to bruise
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
3.5L cold water appx.

To serve:
500g chicken breast
1 packet flat dried rice noodles
100g Swiss Brown mushrooms
4 green shallots (spring onions), sliced
4 birdseye red chillis, seeds removed and sliced finely
½ bunch Vietnamese mint leaves
½ bunch Vietnamese basil leaves
1 lime, cut into quarters

Begin by dry frying the star anise, cinnamon and cardamom pod in a heavy based large saucepan on a high heat until fragrant (about 30 secs).
Turn off heat and add the whole chicken and the rest of the ingredients for the broth except the fish sauce and the sugar. Make sure that the water covers the chicken.
Bring the broth to the boil, skim any impurities off the top and then simmer for at least 2 hours.
Strain the broth with a fine sieve into a large saucepan. Discard the chicken and vegies. 
Add the fish sauce and sugar to the clear broth and then taste. Add more of each if needed.

Bring the strained broth to a gentle simmer, add the chicken breast pieces and poach for 8-10mins or until cooked through and succulent. About half way through this, add the mushrooms. 
While the chicken is poaching, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the rice noodles, boiling rapidly for 6-8 mins until soft. 
When ready, drain the noodles and place into individual serving bowls.
Remove the chicken breast from the broth and slice on a diagonal angle (it looks nicer in the bowl).
Ladle the broth and mushrooms over the top of the noodles in each bowl and top with slices of poached chicken.
Serve the accompaniments of chilli, green shallots, lime and herbs (including your coriander leaves) in small bowls at the table and allow people to add as much or as little as they want. 
A generous amount of chilli and herbs will instantly wake up your senses and have you thinking more clearly by the end of the bowl. I guarantee it!

If all else fails, there's always my dessert back-up plan of Green Tea and Maltesers ;)


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