I think at this point Tony Bourdain has done in the neighborhood of 47 Vietnam episodes, and last night Travel Channel reran the one in which he visits "The Lunch Lady."
(For some reason I couldn't find a reference to the segment on the "No Reservations" website, hence the link to a seemingly random blog.)
As the camera lovingly showed her assembling soup ingredients and Bourdain gushing over the quality of the resulting broth, my mind went to two things I needed to use up -- a jar of pork stock with about a cup left in it and an open package of egg noodles.
I've been playing more and more with those noodles that come as a stack of disks, each disk being a serving, and you take out however many servings you need. They cook fast and take on flavors from stir fry or soup pretty well. I've been getting them at Hannaford.
As for the stock, I'd thawed out one of my Mason jars for a pot of chorizo and hominy and didn't quite need all of it. I've been very pleased with my most recent batch of pork stock. It's been particularly rich and gelatiny because I used mostly feet in making it. I hadn't stored up much in the way of neck bones when Price Chopper suddenly had several marked-down packages of feet and hocks.
So, when I popped home for dinner tonight, I minced up half a small onion and started to cook it in some butter in a small pot. Then I grated in a small piece of ginger and a clove of garlic and added sprinkles of fish sauce, dried coriander and half a dried red chili pepper, chopped up, along with some salt and pepper.
Lemongrass would have been appropriate here, but I didn't have any. However, I should note that Price Chopper is carrying lemongrass again -- they had it Satuday next to those plastic packages of herbs. Lime zest also would have fit in but, again, I didn't have any.
In went the stock with a splash each of Madeira and rice vinegar and I brought the whole thing to a boil.
Please note, I've never set foot anywhere near Vietnam, much less eaten anything from "The Lunch Lady" or even anything proclaiming to be an imitation of her work. These are all (except maybe the Madeira) ingredients that lodged themselves in my head during cooking shows about Southeast Asia, and I make no claims to authenticity. This is not Vietnamese, it's Vietnamese-ish.
While that cooked down a little I got a pot of water going for the noodles. Those cook for two minutes, get drained and go into the broth for another minute, stirring all the while.
There are a whole bunch more ingredients I would have added if I'd had them on-hand or thought of them in time. Some baby spinach wilted during the last minute of cooking would have fit in well, as would some sliced carrots cooked in the broth from the beginning. Shredded raw cabbage and/or fresh bean sprouts would have made great toppings, and I have various pieces of pig in my downstairs freezer that would have been right at home in this bowl.
Even without any of that, though, it was marvelous. It was rich and meaty, tangy, with a nice bit of warmth from the ginger and the chili pepper. I am not normally one who slurps broth from the bottom of a bowl, but I did tonight.