Tonight I wanted to make an Asian soup that had the Thai components of Tom Kha soup, with its spicy clear broth and definite hints of lemongrass, that I have tasted in many different recipes and restaurants. I have also been wanting to try this soup called Pho that I have seen at some new Vietnamese sandwich shops that have started to pop up all around town. The main thing I noticed about Pho is that it comes with an assorted side of condiments. The other day I noticed a gentleman eating this soup and his condiments included bean sprouts, cilantro, and jalapeno slices. I have seen others as well. Tonight I decided to focus on these because, well, it just sounded good to me! I have also seen mint, basil, and green onion.
You take these condiments and place them on top of the soup just before eating them so they are still basically raw.
So, my soup was a combination of these two. I started out by making some chicken broth. I cheated and basically heated some pre-made broth. I added fresh basil, straw mushrooms, and bok choy.
When the soup had sufficient time to boil I removed the cheesecloth with the lemongrass. I love lemongrass and I also loved the intensity of the flavor in the broth and did not want it to change by leaving the bag of lemongrass in there. I have done this before with soups where I added ginger and was disappointed to find out that the ginger eventually overpowered the soup. Now when working with ginger and even lemongrass, though it is more subtle, I remove it from the broth once I like where the intensity is at.
Let's talk about lemongrass while on the subject! Not only is it a lovely essential oil that is used to make citronella and repel bugs but it is also refreshing, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, etc. and generally cleansing. It just has a clean and crisp but pleasant smell. When working with the actual stalks the smell is less intense and more soothing.
DO NOT use essential lemongrass oil when cooking. In fact, unless you are specifically using COOKING GRADE oils it is important that you NEVER ingest essential oils. They are too intense and will make you sick.
Lemongrass is a stalk.
When cooking with it you should bruise or pound on the stalk to release the flavor and aroma from the stalk. It doesn't soften very much so you want to remove most of it before consuming the food you are making it with. This is why I wrapped it in the cheesecloth. Rather than fish out the individual pieces, I simply remove the cheesecloth.
I placed the remaining pieces that I did not use (the upper third of the two stalks) into my tea pot and let it steep awhile so I could sip on some soothing tea.
Lemongrass, in addition to being soothing, is also mildly sedating. It fights cancer cells. It detoxifies your kidneys, and lowers cholesterol. It contains a wide array of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Vitamins include C, A, and B including folate which is B9. Minerals include manganese, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.
Lemongrass fights digestive issues, infection, and last but not least it helps to improve symptoms of the common cold.
Now back to the soup!
Once the both was done cooking and the rice noodles had softened (a matter of minutes), I placed the noodles in a bowl. I did not combine the noodles with the soup because sometimes rice noodles dissolve and lose their consistency and I did not want to chance this happening in my broth.
I added the broth atop the noodles and then last but not least I poured my condiments on the top.
The result was beautiful to gaze upon, yummy in my mouth, and soothing on my tummy.
The tea was a lovely addition.
P.S. for dessert I ate some fresh figs which were equally as divine.
Quick re-cap on the recipe:
Noodles: rice noodles or whatever you want
Broth: Chicken broth (or whatever you like), a meat of your choice if you like, two chopped stalks of lemongrass tied in cheesecloth, basil, mushrooms, and bok choy.
Let this boil for 30 minutes or so. Add salt to taste and remove the lemongrass once you are happy with the flavor it adds to the soup.
Condiments: You can top this with whatever you like. I personally enjoy jalapeno, cilantro, bean sprouts, and green onion.
Voila!! Bon appetit!