Pork Soup with Glass Noodles
THIS THAI-CHINESE SOUP WAS ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I LEARNED TO COOK WHILE LIVING IN THAILAND. I still love eating this as much during the warmth of summer as on a cold winter day. Even my picky six-year-old son will dive into a bowl! The slick mung bean thread noodles and silken egg tofu offer lovely supple textures to counter the delicious meatballs and the crunch of Chinese celery. In Thailand this is one of the few noodle dishes that would normally be eaten with steamed jasmine rice.
- 2 kg (4 lb) pork neck bones, in pieces
- 4 green onions, trimmed
- 4 coriander roots, some stem and leaf attached
- 4 slices of daikon, about 3 cm (1”) thick
- 1 head garlic, smashed
- 1 piece ginger, about 5 cm (2”), bruised
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 250 ml (1 cup) canola or vegetable oil
- 1 head garlic, cloves only, peeled
- 30 g (6 cloves) garlic, chopped
- 10 g (1 tbsp) chopped coriander root and stem
- ¼ tsp white peppercorns
- ¼ tsp black peppercorns
- ½ tsp salt
- 500 g (1 lb) minced pork
- 2 egg whites
- 40 g (2½ tbsp) chai poh*, minced
- 20 ml (1½ tbsp) fish sauce
- 250 ml (1 cup) mushrooms, preferably oyster, sliced
- 100 g mung bean glass noodles, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
- 60 g (¼ cup) chai poh*, minced
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) dried goji berries
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) chopped coriander leaves
- 50 ml (¼ cup) chopped Chinese celery leaves and stems
- 50 ml (¼ cup) sliced green onion
- 1 tube egg tofu, about 250 g (8 oz), sliced 1 cm (½”) thick
- 45 ml (3 tbsp) soy sauce
- white pepper
Transfer pork bones to a stockpot or Dutch oven and add water to cover — about 5 L (5 quarts). Bring to a boil on high and skim impurities as they rise. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for three hours, skimming foam and replenishing water as necessary to keep bones covered. Add onions, coriander, daikon, garlic, ginger and peppercorns. Simmer and skim for one hour more. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and let cool. Refrigerate. Once chilled, remove congealed fat from surface. Keep refrigerated.
To make the garlic oil, transfer oil to a saucepan on medium and heat to 162°C (325°F). Transfer garlic to a food processor and pulse until minced. Add garlic to oil and stir continuously until garlic is bronzed — about 1 minute. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Spread the crispy garlic on paper towels and let cool. Transfer to an airtight container. Reserve oil.
To prepare the meatballs, combine garlic, coriander, peppercorns and salt in the bowl of a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder and grind to a paste. Combine in a bowl the ground spices and the pork. Transfer egg whites to a separate bowl and whisk until frothy and doubled in size. Add egg whites to pork mixture, along with chai poh and fish sauce. Mix well (the more you work it, the springier the eventual texture). Dampen your hands and roll mixture into balls — about 20 g (or 1 heaping tbsp) each. Set aside.
To finish, transfer 1.5 L (6 cups) pork stock to a large saucepan and bring to a boil on high. Add about 25 meatballs and the mushrooms. When liquid returns to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and skim impurities. Simmer until meatballs are cooked through — 4 to 5 minutes. Drain noodles. Cut into 5 cm (2”) lengths. Add to the soup with the chai poh and goji berries. Simmer for two minutes longer. Add 50 ml (¼ cup) coriander, celery, green onion and soy sauce. Stir. Add the tofu and simmer until just heated — about a minute. Finish soup with white pepper. Garnish with 3 tbsp crispy garlic, 3 tbsp garlic oil and the remaining coriander leaves.
*Chinese preserved sweet radish.
Photos by Matthew Perrin