Last Monday I got hit by a car; I survived.
Bruised and thoroughly shaken up, I insisted on making dinner the next night, much to Keith’s annoyance. I could’ve cooked something, he said. You should be resting.
He’s right — I should’ve been resting, and the short amount of prep time our meal took left me sore, aching and in desperate need of my prescribed Percocet. That said, the recipe I’d chosen couldn’t have been any simpler. I like to think I would’ve been able to manage it even if I had been seriously injured, something I hope I never have to put to the test.
The beauty of this soup is that you literally throw the majority of the ingredients into a pot, slap on its lid, and walk away. Soon thereafter, doped up on painkillers or not, you’ll smell the most amazing fragrances emerging from your kitchen. If you happen to be doped up on painkillers, these alluring aromas will likely have the power to lift you up off of the sofa and gently waft you towards the pot, much like the sweet perfume of a blueberry pie cooling on a windowsill in an old Merrie Melodies cartoon.
When I was younger, my mother frequently made a chicken noodle soup that I now realize must have been inspired by Vietnamese phở; at the time, I just thought it was delicious, though the skinny, silvery noodles my mom used were too squirrely to catch on a spoon. Later I learned these were cellophane noodles, also called vermicelli or bean thread noodles, but when I was growing up I called them “swimming noodles,” since they too often slid off of my cutlery and back into the broth as smoothly as a fish.
To avoid frustration while eating this soup, I recommend using both spoon and fork, something that is only tricky if your head is cloudy with narcotics and acetaminophen.
Pork Noodle Soup with Cinnamon + Anise, from Gourmet
Makes four to six portions
2 ½ pounds country-style pork ribs
6 cups water
2/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup Chinese Shaoxing wine or medium-dry Sherry
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
3 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 whole star anise (I used two)
5 ½ ounces cellophane noodles
Chopped cilantro and sliced scallions for garnish
- Gently simmer all ingredients except noodles in a 6-quart heavy pot, covered, skimming as needed, until pork is very tender, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
- Transfer pork to a bowl. Discard bones, spices, and garlic. Coarsely shred meat. Skim fat from broth, then return meat and bring to a simmer. Rinse noodles, then stir into broth and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until noodles are translucent and tender, about 6 minutes.