And after a marathon week of planning, cooking for and executing of my sons birthday party, with today being a sunday, I was hankering after one of my favourite meals, Chicken Dumpling soup. I like dishes that have lots of bites of goodness in them that come together into "A perfect bite" and this soup, steaming hot, with silky pasta, crunchy vegetables and tender dumplings, topped with fried shallots, chillies, chilli paste, chilli and sesame oil and shredded lettuce is a favourite.
I have many ways of making noodle soup. I do a chicken version of the vietnamese pho, a variation inspired by Kylie Kwongs White-cooked chicken with soy & ginger dressing, and even a maggi soup. The unifying factor in them all is that they start with a good stock as a base in which the noodles are cooked and are served with a variety of toppings.
Chicken Dumpling Soup
First prepare your vegetables
This time I used carrots, cauliflower, green beans, pak choy, chinese cabbage and snow peas. Layer them in that exact order (with stems from pak choy and cabbage going in before the leaves) in a large holed collander so the steam cooks the tougher stuff first.
Now get your stock base going
4 lts water or homemade stock
4 onions cut in six wedges each
12 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups ginger slices
3 tbsp Massells chicken stock powder OR 4 cubes of any stock
Salt to taste
1/3 cup oil
Heat the oil in a large stockpot and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Stirfry briskly until the edges of everything is well browned. Add the water or the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Add stock powder if using water, stir well, give it a minute to dissolve. Leave on simmer. Place prearranged collander of vegetables on top of the stockpot and cover with a lid.
Now make the dumplings
500 gms minced meat ( I use chicken mince)
2 tbsp garlic, chopped fine
2 tbsp chopped herbs (green coriander, garlic or onion)
1 tsp chilli paste (optional)
1 tbsp corn flour
salt to taste
Combine everything in a large bowl and mix well. Your vegetables should be nicely done by now. Set collander aside and bring soup to a boil again. When it is boiling briskly, start dropping spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture shaped into rough rounds in. Your dumplings will sink at first but rise up again as they get cooked. When you have gone through all the mixture, give the dumpling 2 - 3 mins more to cook and then strain out and reserve in a bowl.
Add 250 gms of noodles to the boiling stock. Allow to cook untill soft and silky and add dumplings back into pot. Serve into individual bowls ensuring a bit of everything goes into each bowl.
Place a platter of condiments on the table so diners can tweak their servings to taste.
Hot - Lee Kum Kee Chui Chow Chilli paste - a tongue twister of a name but what a kick! Just dole out a bowl full.
Also finely minced fresh red or green chillies
Sour - Pickled cucumbers - Peel two cucumbers and slice in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and eat with a bit of salt, slice white parts up thinly, salt and leave to drain for 15 mins. Squeeze to remove juices and place in a bowl. Add 1 - 2 finely minced chillies if you want (I love a little heat), 1/2 tsp sugar and 1/2 cup of any natural vinegar (not synthetic). Adjust salt and chill untill eating time! TIP: if you have pickers around (those species that pick through everything while you are cooking so you have nothing left) then do 4 times as much. Heck do more anyway these are great in the summer.
Salty - Chillies and fish sauce - This is a given with fried rice in Thailand, smash as many chillies as you can handle to a pulp in a mortar, add 1/2 cup fish sauce and allow to stand untill eating. You can also add fried onions to this and make it a chutney. I like it with my khichdi and dal rice. If you do not have fish sauce add dried jawla and salt and crush or just add salt.
Sweet - Honey Chilli sauce - the Thai one that is readily available.
Herby- finely minced fresh basil, mint and/or coriander.
Crunch - shredded iceberg lettuce, blanched shredded cabbage and or bean sprouts.