The liquid comes last when you dish up these light and lean
Vietnamese-style dinner soups. One is based on meat-filled cabbage
rolls; the other is chicken noodle with a fresh twist.
A tureen holds steaming, flavorful broth. Other ingredients–meat,
vegetables, rice or nooddles, and seasonings–are offered separately in
a colorful display. You put what you want, in the proportions you
choose, into your own bowl, then ladle in the hot, clear broth. These
soups are particularly appealing when tastes in the household diverge or
preferences of guests are unknown.
Cook these soups with readily available ingredients. Or explore
Asian markets for dry bean thread noodles, thin dry rice noodles,
amber-colored fish sauce, and curly fungus. Vietnamese Cabbage Roll
Soup (Canh Bap Cai Goi Thit) 2 ounces dry bean thread noodles (optional)
Water 8 green onions, each at least 12 inches long 2 loose heads (about
2 lb. each) savoy or regular cabbage 2-1/2 quarts regular-strength
chicken broth 1 pound ground lean pork 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper Fish sauce or soy sauce 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
(coriander) 4 cups hot cooked rice Seasoning sauce (recipe follows
Soak bean threads in warm water to cover until soft, about 20
Cut top 8 to 10 inches off green onions. Split each section of
onion top in half lengthwise. Trim roots and finely chop white part of
onions; set both parts aside.
Remove and discard bruised outer leaves of cabbage; cut out and
discard core. Holding cabbage under running water, carefully remove
leaves 1 at a time, letting the water help separate leaves without
tearing. Cut large leaves in half lengthwise along stiff rib; cut out
and discard rib. Use smaller leaves whole. Each cabbage piece should
be about 4 by 5 inches; trim leaves, if needed, to make this size.
Reserve trimmings and undersize leaves.
In a 5- to 6-quart pan, bring the broth and 1 quart water to
boiling. Push cabbage leaves, a few at a time, into the broth. Cook,
uncovered, just until leaves are wilted, about 2 minutes. With a slotted
spoon, lift out leaves and drain. Also push onion tops into the broth
and cook just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Lift out and drain.
Reserve broth (if made ahead, cover and chill broth).
Cut bean threads into 2-inch lengths. Blend threads with pork,
garlic, pepper, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, and 1/3 cup chopped green
On long side of each leaf, shape 1 tablespoon pork filling into a
2-inch log. Fold a long edge of leaf over filling, then fold sides over
filling; roll up to enclose (see far left picture). Tie a piece of
onion top around center of each roll. (If made ahead, cover and chill
up to overnight.)
Remove and discard fat from reserved broth. Bring broth to
boiling. Add cabbage rolls and simmer, uncovered, until meat is no
longer pink in center (cut to test), 6 to 7 minutes. Lift rolls from
broth and place on a platter. Cut reserved cabbage into 1/4-inch-wide
strips and add to broth; boil just until bright green, about 1 minute.
Add fish sauce to taste. Pour borth into a tureen and sprinkle with
remaining chopped onion and cilantro. Put rice in another bowl.
To serve, fill individual bowls about halfway with rice; spoon
cabbage rolls and broth over rice. Offer seasoning sauce. Makes 4 to 6
Seasoning sauce. Mix 1/4 cup each fish sauce (or soy sauce) and
water; 2 tablespoons lime juice; 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced; 2
tablespoons sugar; 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot red chilies.
North Vietnamese Chicken Soup Dinner (Bun Thang) 3 quarts
regular-strength chicken broth 1 broiler-fryer chicken (3-1/2 to 4 lb.),
cut up Fish sauce or soy sauce 1/4 cup dry black fungus (cloud ears or
wood ears), optional Water 1/4 pound chicken hearts or gizzards 1
tablespoon salad oil 1/2 pound bean sprouts 1 cup cilantro (coriander)
springs 4 whole green onions, thinly sliced Noodles (directions follow)
Egg strips (recipe follows) Seasoning sauce (see cabbage roll soup
recipe, preceding) 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/4 cup minced cilantro
In an 8- to 10-quart pan, bring chicken broth to boiling. Set
aside chicken heart and gizzard; reserve liver for other uses. Add
chicken, except breast, to broth; cover and simmer 25 minutes. Add
breast and continue simmering, covered, until breast is white at bone
(cut to test), about 20 minutes longer. Lift out chicken; let cool.
Skim off and discard fat from broth. (If made ahead, cool broth, cover,
and chill up to 2 days.) Add fish sauce to taste. Pull off and discard
skin and bones from chicken; tear meat into thin shreds. (If made ahead,
cover and chill up to 2 days. Let warm to room temperature.)
Soak fungus in hot water until soft, about 15 minutes; drain. Pinch
out and discard tough knobby center. Cut fungus into julienne strips.
Cut off and discard tough membrane from hearts or gizzards; cut these
giblets into julienne strips. In a 6-to 8-inch frying pan, stir giblets
in salad oil over high heat until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Stir
in fungus and 2 teaspoons fish sauce. (If made ahead, cool, cover, and
chill.) Serve warm or at room temperature.
To present soup, put condiments in separate bowls: chicken,
giblets, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, 1/2 cup of the green onion,
noodles, egg strips, and seasoning sauce. Return broth to boiling and
pour into tureen; sprinkle with remaining green onion, pepper, and
minced cilantro. Add condiments to individual bowls to taste, then fill
with broth. Flavor as desired with seasoning sauce. Makes 6 servings.
Noodles. In a 5- to 6-quart pan, bring about 3 quarts water to
boiling. Add about 1 pound dry thin rice noodles (mai fun or rice
sticks) or dry vermicelli. Boil, uncovered, until barely tender to
bite, 2 to 3 minutes for rice noodles, 9 minutes for vermicelli. Drain;
rinse with hot water and drain well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Egg strips. Beat 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon water to blend. Place a
nonstick 8- to 10-inch frying pan over medium-low heat. Brush 1
teaspoon salad oil over bottom and slightly up sides of pan. When pan
is hot, pour in 1/4 cup egg mixture and quickly tilt pan to coat bottom
evenly. Cook just until egg feels dry on top. Turn out onto paper
towels. Repeat process to cook remaining egg; turn out over first egg
cake and let cool. Cut cakes into 1/4-inch-wide strips. (If made ahead,
cover and chill up to 2 days.) Serve at room temperature.