King Soup, Vientiane

I can sing the praises of Vientiane’s affordable, delicious, vegetarian-friendly Laotian cuisine all the day long. I have never had a dish at this neighborhood BYOB that I didn’t like, and often I love whatever I ordered so much that I get in a rut, and can only order that exact same thing for months (sometimes years). So it’s a big deal when I break the mold and order something different. But this King Soup caught me eye – it was exactly what I wanted on a cool and rainy night. A coconut milk curry base with noodles, fried tofu, plenty of chilis and all the toppings of a traditional Pho. Perfect. Of course, I’ve had it twice again since I took this photo!

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Late Spring Pho

Late Spring Pho
Late Spring Pho

Kate was sick. “I just want something salty and spicy and soup,” she said. I had more vegetables than I knew what to do with, so I offered to make some soup and bring it over. Spicy and salty – obviously had to been Asian influenced. And I had snap peas and carrots and mushroom and cabbage and broccoli and jalapenos – perfect for Pho. The cabbage, broccoli, snap peas, and green onions came from my CSA, the mushroom selection and tomato from the Fair Food Farmstand, and the Soy Boy tofu from Mariposa Co-op.

Late Spring Pho
serves 4

5 cups homemade vegetable broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbs. chili sesame oil
1 tsp. ground white pepper

1 pound extra firm tofu, pressed
1 tsp. sesame oil

5 cremini mushrooms, sliced
5 shitake mushroom caps, sliced
1 large wood ear mushroom, sliced
1 tsp. sesame oil

8 oz. dried rice stick noodles

2 cups of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup snap peas
1 carrot, grated or cut into matchsticks
1 head broccoli, divided into small florets
1 large tomatoes, cubed

1 jalapeno, sliced
4 greens onions, sliced
fresh cilantro, if desired

Combine broth, oil, soy, vinegar, and white pepper in a large pot. Bring to a low boil. In a separate saucepan, lightly fry the tofu cubes, and place to the side. In the same saucepan, add another teaspoon of sesame oil, and lightly fry the mushrooms. Place the rice stick noodles in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Add the shredded cabbage to the soup broth and bring back to boil. When the cabbage begins to wilt, add the snap peas and boil for one minute. Add the broccoli, carrots, tomato, mushrooms and tofu. Cook for one minute, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Drain the noodles, now softened, and stir into the soup. Ladle into bowls and garnish with onions, jalapenos, and cilantro. Add additional chili sauce, to taste.