Sunday, June 07, 2009

Bean thread noodle soup with prawns and vegetables

My friend A. is transforming herself:
Not under the knife of a high-priced plastic surgeon, not by going to a spa and being massaged by well-muscled and sweet-talking men while being fed, what amounts to nothing, served up by 'nutritionists' at exorbitant prices - but by sheer force of will. I talk with her nearly every weekend and I marvel at her tenacity and determination; I listen in awe as she gives me an almost overwhelming account of calories in, energy out; nutritional information such as fat, sugar and salt values in everyday foods; the intervals and reps, the miles, the sweat, the fears, tears and pain. I listen with envy (and with some shame, perhaps) as I lie in my bed at noon on a Saturday trying to think of reasons to get up. She gets up much more easily these days for she has lost some 80-odd pounds at this writing.

These days, her voice betrays her newly acquired energy and her excitement - sometimes sounding like a stretched bow, waiting - waiting to be released and give wing to that arrow; sometimes breathless with anticipation of overcoming the challenges that she faces every day. I am both relieved and envious - relieved because, not long ago, I thought I might never see the friend I knew back in graduate school again. Relieved because I know when I see her, we'll be able to do things together - the way we used to before she fell into that hole of loneliness and despair that made her twice the size of the woman I knew, once. And envious, perhaps, of her strength and perseverance in the face of this challenge she set for herself. I cannot imagine what it must take to do what she is doing.


This time, as so often, our talk turned to food and eating and by the time we hung up, I was ready for lunch. But, Lo! I didn't want to consume loads of calories and I craved something spicy and full of flavour. So I came up with this:

Bean thread noodle soup with prawns and vegetables

Ingredients (for two servings):

1 100 gm packet bean thread noodles
1 courgette (zucchini)
8 very large prawns (shrimp)
8 dried black Chinese mushrooms (or fresh Shitake mushrooms, if you can get them)
8 asparagus spears
6 spring onions
fresh galangal (or ginger)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
juice of 1 lime
1 stalk fresh Thai lemon grass, smashed and cut into 1 inch pieces (optional)
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp instant Dashi powder (optional; available from Asian shops)
1 tsp chicken powder (or 2 cups good home made clear chicken stock)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 red chilli, sliced
small handful of fresh coriander leaves

To serve:
lime wedges
Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
fresh coriander sprigs


First prepare the ingredients:
Remove the tough bottom ends of the asparagus and discard. Split the asparagus spears in half, length-wise then, finally, in half, on the bias.

Put the bean thread noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 20 minutes.

Place the dried mushrooms in another small bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to soak for 20 minutes. If using fresh mushrooms skip this step.

Slice the spring onion/scallion into 2" pieces. Keep the most green parts for a garnish (thinly sliced) and use the rest as large pieces.

Wash and peel the prawns, remove the dorsal 'vein' and split in half, length-wise (they really curl up beautifully AND you are left with twice as many pieces of prawn, of course!)

Prepare the courgette by slicing first length-wise then into thin rounds, approximately 1/4" thick.

Prepare 3 slices of galangal or ginger, approximately 1/4" thick and cut into matchsticks. Cut the garlic into thin slices and roughly chop the coriander.

Juice the lime.

Now get cooking:

1. Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.
2. Bring 1 litre/4 cups water to the boil (if using chicken stock, replace half the water with the stock). Add the instant dashi and chicken powder or stock cube. To this add the courgette and the asparagus and blanch for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl of cold water. Keep the cooking water simmering and...
3. Add the garlic, ginger, ground white pepper, the nam pla, a few slices of red chilli, the soy sauce and the lemon grass. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Remove the lemon grass stalks. Drain the mushrooms, remove the tough stalks and cut into quarters (If using fresh mushrooms, cut into quarters. Add these to the broth, along with the prawns and spring onion (white part).
5. When the prawns begin to turn pink (which is almost immediately), add the blanched vegetables, the soaked bean thread noodles, and the sliced chilli to the broth.
6. After 2 minutes, stir in the chopped coriander and remove from the heat.

To serve:

Serve the noodles first then divide the vegetables and prawns between the bowls. Ladle the dashi broth over the noodles and vegetables.

Garnish with coriander sprigs, lime wedges and sliced chilli or serve the soup with no garnish and let your guests help themselves to garnishes including:

Lime wedges
nam pla
thinly sliced spring onion (green part)
chopped chillis
chopped coriander

This tasted delicious! In spite of the long list of ingredients and lenghy-looking preparation, it all went together rather quickly and was ready to eat in about 30 minutes. We loved the spicy/minty taste of the chillis, the crunchy barely cooked freshness of the vegetables and the exotic slimyness of the noodles. Mmmmm!

Celebrate friendship and achievement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a sweet post. You really have been supportive throughout all this, and I really appreciate it! I can't wait to come visit in September and ride with you guys. :-)

The recipe looks yummy! Let me know when you put it into SparkPeople so I can see the nutritional analysis... :-) :-)