We welcomed a baby girl into our family at the end of January. Since then, life has taken place during naps, sleeping more than 4 hours straight seems like heaven, and if I don’t have spit-up on my clothing I consider myself dressed for dinner. Despite the chaos, I don’t think we have ever been happier and I’d gladly trade a crossed-off to do list for a baby smile any day of the week.
We’ve been blessed to have friends and family bring us meals during this busy time. They’ve nourished and spoiled us with delicious dinners, yummy desserts, and treats for breakfast. Having dinner crossed off the list before one even wakes up in the morning is a real gift and makes for much easier days. Yet, I miss the kitchen and have been thrilled when I find myself with enough time to do something other than reheat a frozen meal.
Today was one of those days. A 45-minute nap by baby was just enough time to get one of my favorite recipes simmering on the stove. Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table is one of the cookbooks I turn to most as her recipes never disappoint; her recipe for Vietnamese soup is no exception. It’s comfort food with an exotic twist and my barely adapted version of her Vietnamese Chicken Noodle soup is one that you’ll want to make again and again. Happy cooking!
12 fresh cilantro stems
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 (1-inch piece) ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
2 dried red chilies
6 cups homemade or less-sodium chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
4 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
Salt, to taste
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 ounces dried rice vermicelli noodles
4 -6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Serve with: fresh mint leaves, hoisin sauce, and/or sriracha hot sauce
Special equipment: cheesecloth and kitchen twine
Wrap the cilantro stems and coriander in cheesecloth and tie with a piece of twine. Place in a large soup pot with the onion, ginger, lemongrass, red chilies, chicken broth, coconut milk, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, brown sugar, white pepper, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.
Once boiling, add the chicken breasts and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken breasts are cooked. Remove the chicken breasts and allow to cool. Once cool, shred the chicken and return it to the soup. At this point, the soup can be refrigerated if not serving immediately.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dried rice vermicelli noodles. Cook according to package directions and drain in a colander. Set aside.
Add the remaining two tablespoons fish sauce to the soup and add fresh lime juice to taste. Stir in the cilantro leaves and add more salt if needed.
Divide the cooked vermicelli noodles between 4 large bowls and ladle the hot soup over the noodles. Garnish with mint leaves and serve with lime wedges, hoisin sauce, and/or sriracha. Enjoy!