One of the reasons I was intrigued by this book is that Dorie promises to bring us contemporary recipes from France — what real French people are cooking today. Not surprisingly, Vietnamese food is common and she says that this soup is ubiquitous.
This soup is good but just not my thing. I also think I wasn’t in the mood for it on the night I made it. The flavors were wonderful and certainly evoked memories of other Vietnamese food I’ve eaten (so it seemed authentic, as far as I know) but, in the end, I just wasn’t that into it. If this soup were a really nice guy I dated (you know, back in the day) but just didn’t click with I would totally tell you to go out with him. I suspect that if I had added any of the optional garnishes, like lime juice or chili oil, I would have liked it better. In the end though, it was a collection of ingredients I like well enough but don’t love (coconut milk, fish sauce, cilantro).
Star anise and white peppercorns proved difficult to find. And I even went to the weirdest store I know (and I say “weird” in the most flattering way possible. This place never stops surprising me with its often bizarre foods from around the world. Powdered whipped cream anyone?). Of course, I should have gone to Little Vietnam which is not far from where I live, or ordered from Amazon, but at this point it was 3:30 and those options were off the table.
I encourage you to try this recipe. If you use some leftover chicken from making stock or a roast chicken it will be even easier. You could certainly substitute tofu or some hearty mushrooms. It’s a good soup and it deserves a better spokesperson than me.
Walter hates coconut milk, fish sauce, and cilantro so this would be a triple-whammy for him so I won’t be trying this any time soon. However, I would be happy to get you some star anise and white peppercorns if you like.
I keep three mills on my counter – one filled with salt, one filled with black peppercorns, and one filled with white peppercorns. Even though Joel Robuchon extolls the virtues of white peppercorns in Simply French, I’m not so nuts about it. And I don’t automatically add pepper to everything as I cook but generally prefer it added at the end right before serving.
I also keep two other things on the counter – a sugar shaker filled with kosher salt to use during cooking and a sugar bowl filled with Maldon Salt to crush with my fingers over food just before serving. It is a particular delight crushed over green beans cooked to a perfect, bright consistency – not too soft, not too crunchy – and tossed with excellent quality sweet butter. I am reading Amarcord, Marcella Remembers and in it she says she cooks green beans and tosses them with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil. Doesn’t that sound interesting? (In Essentials she has replaced the vinegar with lemon juice.)
Love the idea of the sugar shaker for kosher salt. Mine is currently in a large plastic container on a cupboard shelf and every time I take it down it sprinkles a littel salt all over everything.
I would do anything Marcella told me to so yes, that does sound interesting!
Kate, we seem to be in sync. That is exactly how I felt about it. It tasted good, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I should have remembered the chili oil, as I love things that are spicy.
I do not think I have completely conquered my fish sauce fears.
Yes, it has taken me a while to get over the fish oil aversion. Even now when I add it to something I hold my breath until it’s mixed it and not so strong smelling. But I have never been able to detect any fishy-ness in anything I’ve added it to. Still.
Hmm. This looks like something I would LOVE. My mouth watered a little just looking at your photo!