Asparagus and Crab meat Soup

When I was a kid I loved Chinese food as I had good access to it with all the Chinese takeaways. Over time, that love has broadened to include many more cuisines from South East Asia as I’ve had more exposure. Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food I also now love though I await the day when vegetarian versions of Char Sui Buns are readily available (yes I should make some!). All these cuisines have a few things in common for me – they have a few central ingredients which are used to create many different dishes, they’re fresh, flavourful, healthy, quick to make and the meat recipes are generally quite easy to substitute. This recipe from ‘The Vietnamese Market Cookbook’ is a great example of this.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Chicken flavoured stock
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion
  • 200g crabmeat
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • rice noodles (I didn’t measure these – enough for 4 – I really like the wide strip ones)
  • 1 punnet of shitake mushrooms
  • pepper
  • coriander leaves

Method

1.) Peel and chop up the onion

2.) Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and fry the onion until soft

3.) Boil some water and make up 1.5 litres stock

4.) Add the crabmeat to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes then add the fish sauce and fry for one more minute

5.) Pour in the stock and turn up the heat

6.) Slice up the mushrooms and asparagus and add to the pan with the rice noodles. Reserve the tips of the asparagus as they cook quicker.

7.) Cook on a high heat for 5 minutes until the noodles are soft, after 3 minutes, add the asparagus tips. While this is cooking, chop up the coriander leaves.

8.) When the soup is done, sprinkle in some pepper. Serve up with a garnish of coriander.

Vietnamese Pho

My version of pho – pronounced as ‘fuh’ in Vietnam

In March 2019, we visited Hanoi in Vietnam for a few days as a last stop on a mini-Asian tour. This is a truly crazy city chock full of moped drivers who aren’t even deterred by flooded streets. Whilst I didn’t enjoy the trip to Ha Long bay as much as I was hoping – tourists were packed in to the point there was barely a space to park the boats, I did enjoy haggling a little with the market stall owners who charge about 3 times what they usually would if you’re a Westerner. I think they quite enjoy the haggling as long as you don’t take the mick!

Whilst in Asia, we did cheat a little on our pescatarian diet to be able to try the local delicacies though I do believe that it would be impossible to avoid meat even if we were making an active effort to. In Vietnam, my favourite was the Chả Giò which are Vietnamese spring rolls. They are deep fried and the rice paper they are wrapped in crisps up beautifully.

However, this recipe is for Pho – a chicken or beef flavoured broth served with rice noodles. As the traditional recipe calls for beef/chicken bone stock I’ve taken a couple of liberties adding garlic and ginger which is not traditionally Vietnamese. I was extremely happy with the outcome of my dabbling (sorry traditionalists!)

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • thumb ginger
  • 2 shallots
  • 100g rice noodles – the ones that are strips like tagliatelle rather than the vermicelli style
  • 800ml ‘beef’ stock made with Massel beef flavoured stock powder
  • 3 spring onions
  • 15g mint leaves
  • 10g coriander leaves
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 pak choi
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 160g beef style soya chunks (I used a Tesco own-brand).

Method

1.) Peel the garlic, shallots and ginger. Chop them finely.

2.) Fry on a low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the coriander seeds, anise, cloves and cinnamon stick and fry for a couple more minutes.

3.) Add the ‘beef’ stock and put on to simmer for 20 minutes.

4.) Wash and chop up the spring onions. Add half of them to the stock.

5.) Wash and chop up the pak choi – add the stalks to the pan but reserve the leaves.

6.) In another pan, fry the soya chunks until cooked.

7.) In another pan boil the rice noodles until soft and drain. Add these to the bowls to eat. Divide the soya chunks between the bowls.

8.) In the meantime, chop up the coriander and mint leaves. Quarter the lime. Put a lime quarter in each bowl.

9.) 2 minutes before the broth is ready, fish out the star anise and the cinnamon stick. Ideally, you want to fish out the cloves too but personally I couldn’t find them so I didn’t bother.

10.) Add the pak choi leaves and simmer for 1 more minute.

11.) Stir in the soy sauce and the fish sauce.

11.) Now pour the broth into the bowls and sprinkle on the herbs and the rest of the spring onion.