Hubby was inspired to cook some delicious Vietnamese eats this weekend. Love!
My husband was born in Vietnam, and his family immigrated to the United States in 1981 or 1982 (they’re not quite sure of the year), when he was about 3 years old. His mother worked in a restaurant in Vietnam, and so she is an amazing home cook when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine. I like to help her in the kitchen (when she doesn’t shoo me away!) so that I can watch her cooking methods. I’ve encouraged Neah to talk to his mom about her recipes so that we can learn how to prepare them and enjoy this aspect of his Vietnamese culture with our children some day. Like most cooks, however, his mother cooks without measuring, and so after asking her what goes into a given recipe, we look up the recipe in books and on the interwebs for a starting point for ingredient quantities. We then adjust the amounts so that what we prepare more closely approximates what his mom makes. It’s a learning process, and I’m very proud of Neah for making this effort.
We finally made our best version of bún măng gà, a big steaming bowl of rice vermicelli noodles, bamboo-infused chicken broth, fresh bamboo shoots, shredded chicken thighs and aromatics.
Vietnamese bamboo, chicken and rice noodle soup
(bún măng gà)
makes 4 large bowls
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock (homemade, if available)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 of a 6-ounce package of dried bamboo strips
1 large piece of fresh bamboo, sliced and cut into 2-inch strips
1 tablespoon fish sauce, more or less to taste
1 16-ounce package of rice stick noodles (Neah always uses Bún Tháp Chùa brand, which comes in a red package with a picture of a Buddhist temple)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
fresh mint leaves
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh bean sprouts
chile garlic sauce
Combine the chicken stock, chicken thighs, dried bamboo, fresh bamboo and fish sauce in a soup pot. Bring the contents to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes or until the chicken thighs are cooked through. Remove the chicken thighs to a cutting board, shred the chicken and return the meat to the soup pot.
Note: It is important to use both dried and fresh bamboo for this dish. The dried bamboo gives the broth depth of flavor, and the delicate, fresh bamboo is just delicious to eat.
Meanwhile, boil the rice noodles in water until done (they should be al dente, not mushy). Drain the noodles and rinse them well with cool water so that they don’t stick together. Set aside.
Prepare the “grass” (as Neah’s mom calls all the aromatics) while the soup simmers: rinse and spin dry the mint, cilantro and bean sprouts, and set them on table with the lemon wedges, thinly sliced scallions and chili garlic sauce. Each person will add these elements to his or her bowl of soup, to taste.
Crispy shallots are another tasty add-in for this soup. To prepare them, toss thinly sliced shallots with olive oil and put them under a broiler for a few minutes until browned and crispy. Be sure to watch them so that they don’t burn!
To serve the soup: Use a large soup bowl for each person. Put a handful of rice noodles in the bottom of the soup bowl and ladle the soup over the noodles. Serve the soup bowls. At the table, add fresh herbs, sprouts, a squeeze of lemon, garlic chili sauce and shallots, to taste. Toss and stir the soup components using an Asian soup spoon and chop sticks, and enjoy!