This chicken noodle soups bears some similarities with Indonesia's soto ayam: a turmeric broth, poached chicken, vermicelli noodles, plus a garnish of fried shallots. Throw in lemongrass and ginger, and a good dose of chilli, and you have a near-perfect restorative. The soup base can be made ahead and frozen so it's ready to go when needed.
- 3 litres (12 cups) butcher-quality chicken stock
- 1 chicken (about 1.5kg), rinsed, patted dry
- 2 lemongrass stalks (white part only), thinly sliced
- 6 small dried red chillies
- 2 tsp each coriander seeds and cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 5 red shallots, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh turmeric
- 200 gm dried Vietnamese vermicelli (bun tuoi)
- To season: fish sauce and lime juice
- To serve: Chinese chives, coriander and lime wedges
Fried shallots and garlic
- For deep-frying: vegetable oil
- 6 red shallots, thinly sliced on a mandolin
- 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced on a mandolin
- 1Bring stock to the boil over high heat in a very large saucepan, add chicken and lemongrass, and bring back to the boil, then reduce heat to low-medium, simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off heat, cover with a lid and leave to continue cooking chicken in stock until juices run clear when pierced with a skewer (1½ hours). Remove chicken from stock and, when cool enough to handle, tear meat into bite-size pieces. Strain stock, return to saucepan with chicken meat, season to taste and set aside.
- 2Dry-roast chillies over medium-high heat until fragrant and toasted (30-40 seconds) and reserve for serving. Dry-roast whole spices in same pan until fragrant (10-20 seconds), finely grind with a mortar and pestle, then add shallots, ginger, turmeric and a pinch of salt and pound to a smooth paste. Reserve.
- 3Place noodles in a large heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and stand until cooked al dente (2-4 minutes). Drain and leave to cool slightly, then chop with scissors into serving bowls.
- 4For fried shallots and garlic, heat 5cm oil in a wok or small saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add shallots and stir-fry until golden brown and crisp (1-2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels, then repeat with garlic. Strain and reserve oil.
- 5Heat 1 tbsp reserved shallot oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add shallot paste and stir continuously until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add to chicken broth, bring to the boil, season to taste with fish sauce and lime juice, then pour into bowls over vermicelli noodles. Scatter with dry-roasted chilli, fried shallots and garlic and herbs, drizzle with shallot oil to taste (see note) and serve with lime wedges.
Remaining cooled oil will keep in an airtight container for a week and can be used to cook and flavour other dishes.