Friday, November 7, 2008

Magic Garlic Soup

I'm not feeling so good. I have the first bad cold of the season.

Sore throat, big head, runny nose, swollen sinuses. Ehhhhh.

I got through a wigwam-building field trip and a double playdate, but when it was time for dinner I wanted some relief. There would be no fish tacos (the original plan), no spaghetti, no macaroni and cheese. I needed a spicy salty broth, the kind you can't get in restaurant unless you go into Chinatown, which I'm not doing on a sick night like this.

I was lucky on many counts:

1- I had chicken stock in the fridge.

2 - I planted lemongrass in my backyard last spring, which is still going strong.

3 - I had rice noodles and fish sauce on hand, permanent dry goods which should always be in the cabinet for nights like this.

4 - Limes could be had from up at the bodega around the corner.

5 - Finally -- and this is where I hit pay dirt -- I just spent a weekend with a family in which the mom is from Thailand. After a dinner party, we came back to our rented cabin, and she made a midnight soup. It was her homemade broth, noodles, cilantro and the magic ingredient: crunchy garlic. It was like discovering salt. I cannot believe this ingredient. Its MAKES the soup.

She chops up lots of garlic and sautees it in oil and salt until it is golden brown: sticky, crunchy, salty deliciousness. She likes it so much she puts it on everything, so she makes giant batches and always has a jar on hand. This is an incredibly wise thing to do. I thought I was doing it tonight, but we ended up using it all in one shot.

This soup is so good, after two huge bowls, I still can't stop thinking about it. Sorry the measurements aren't exact, but if you are drunk or hungover or sick, you won't care about measurements anyway. Just do it to taste. It's simpler than it might seem.

Its most basic incarnation would be broth with fish sauce, sugar and limes, then noodles, then crunchy garlic.

And then why not add limes and cilantro and hot sauce?

Or spinach or fish? Or whatever?

Drunk, Hungover, or Just Plain Sick Soup

a few cups of chicken stock
3 or so tablespoons fish sauce
generous pinch of raw sugar
Stalk of lemon grass

3 scallions, sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, or spinach, or whatever you have on hand (optional)

Thin rice noodles

4 or more cloves of garlic, minced and sauteed slowly in a few tablespoons of oil and a generous pinch of salt

Hot chili sauce such as Sriracha
Cilantro, chopped

1. Heat the broth with the lemon grass, fish sauce and sugar.

2. Add the sliced scallions and fennel or spinach or whatever else you want to put in.

3. Add the rice noodles.

4. Divide into serving bowls. Add crunchy salty fried garlic. Squeeze limes, and add chili sauce and cilantro. Feel better. I did.

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