Many Asian soups are brilliantly simple and fresh, with a multitude of flavours. Some of my acquaintances claim they don’t like Asian (by which they mean “Chinese”) soups, because they are, to quote one of them “just flavoured water”, i.e. they are nothing like the thick, stew-like soups and the creamy French-style concoctions they are used to, but of course these soups are not meant to be meals in themselves, but merely appetizers. I must admit that I have eaten Chinese soups that were basically stock with some egg in them, but this looks like a slightly more filling soup.
It has three ingredients I have never used before: Chinese mushrooms, fish sauce and spring onions. I have eaten all three, but never used them in cooking.
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 chilantro (fresh coriander) stalks (with leaves)
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, ground
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 litre chicken stock
5 dried black Chinese mushrooms, soaked on cold water for 20 minutes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tbs fish sauce (nam pla)
116 g chicken, cut into strips
55 g spring onions, finely sliced
Some coriander stalks with leaves for garnish
Purée the garlic, chilantro (stems and leaves) and pepper in a food processor or grind with a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a wok, add the purée and stir fry for 1 minute. Add stock, mushrooms and fish sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken strips, lower the temperature so the liquid is barely simmering and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the spring onion slices on top and garnish with chilantro.