Noodle soup as an Australian might make it.

My meddling with a Jaffrey recipe. She calls it Thai, but it is way too simple to be that. It is, nonetheless, a wonderful soup which can be eaten often without tiring of it.

Ingredients

Chicken stock maybe 1 litre per two people
Just cooked thin rice noodles, rinsed while draining to cool them down (stops overcooking)
Green beans topped and tailed and sliced into two, half a cup or more per person
Bean sprouts topped and tailed, yes, tedious, isn’t it? Maybe a cup per person

Method

While the noodles are first cooking prepare everything else, including the things to be served at the table (see below). After noodles are drained, put chicken stock in the same saucepan, or water if you are simply adding a stock cube – a good quality stockcube isn’t a disaster, given the other flavourings to be added. If lucky enough to be in Australia you can get those Massel vegetarian gluten free chicken stock cubes, so it is servable to everybody. After the stock has come to the boil, throw in the beans and cook to taste, for me that’s a couple of minutes. Place a cup of prepared beansprouts at the bottom of each bowl. When beans are almost done, return the noodles to the stock. Give them a moment to warm and then put the noodles, beans and stock over the beansprouts in each bowl.

For serving.

Prepare small bowls of:

rice vinegar with fresh chopped chilli added
fish sauce
sugar
coriander leaves
mint leaves torn or bruised
Unsalted roasted peanuts crushed coarsely maybe half a cup per 2 people

At the table each person adds the various seasonings to taste. I’ve only ever tasted this with some of everything, so I have no idea of the impact of being picky.

Variations

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Put the chilli in a separate bowl so that people can avoid it without avoiding the vinegar. If you have made real chicken stock, you probably have some chicken you can add on your non-vegetarian days. Obviously beef stock is an option. And needless to say, the basic vegetables of beansprouts and beans could be replaced with many other options. I could imagine any Asian greens, not to mention very fine long slivers of carrot.

Edible Thai fishcakes

What could be more different from the comforting, comfortable British fishcake than this zippy little thing, the Thai fish cake? It’s a complex amalgam of sweet, sour, hot; it’s going to zing you up as much as the British fishcake will calm you down. If you haven’t liked those rubbery blobs sold in Thai restaurants, then please do try these, they are lovely.

Thai fish cakes by Belinda Jeffery

Ingredients

750g snapper fillets, skinned and carefully boned. A pair of dedicated tweezers for this is best.
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Inner heart of a large stalk of lemon grass, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
½ cup shredded coriander
¼ -½ finely shredded kaffir lime leaf, optional
¼ cup shredded basil
3 teaspoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon red curry paste
2 tablespoons coconut cream
Chervil or coriander sprigs
Light olive or peanut oil for frying

Garnish: Lime wedges, mint leaves

Method

Finely chop the fish. (Tempting as it is to do this in a food processor, don’t, because you will just end up with a mush that has no texture to it.) Mix in all the other ingredients except the herb sprigs and oil for frying. Don’t be surprised that the mixture is quite wet and sloppy – that’s fine, it just needs to hold together.

Form the mixture into 8 patties and put them on a sheet of baking paper. Press a sprig of chervil or coriander onto each one. You can cook them straight away or chill them, covered, at this stage for a few hours (they’re a easier to handle once they are chilled.)

When you’re ready to cook the fish cakes, heat a little oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the cakes for about 4 minutes on each side. Drain them briefly on paper towels, then transfer them to a platter.

If this were an Indian recipe I would be making curry paste from scratch, but as you will observe from my review of Thai Food by David Thompson I’ve lost heart when it comes to Thai.

The way you get the mixture to stick together without causing it to become the ghastly rubbery things generally sold in Thai restaurants is that you slap it from hand to hand. I don’t know how to describe this better, sorry. Pick some up in your hand, kind of slap it onto the other hand…I hope it is one of those things one understands by virtue of doing.