Category Archives: bean sprouts

Cambodian Noodle Soup

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With the exception of my travels through the Balkans, I have yet to visit any metropolitan area where I didn’t stumble upon a pho shop.  With their steaming bowls of noodles, broth, and an endless variety of add-ins, these Thai noodle soup shops have a cult like following that make them both universal and hard not to like.  In grad school my favorite lunch was a steaming bowl of pho from the student union.  The options were endless so I could eat there every day without repeating the same bowl of soup twice.

I had never made pho before but decided to give it a try when my craving for the hot broth covered noodles got the best of me.  In browsing through recipe options I came across one in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Splendid Table is my favorite radio program on NPR.  I can even stream their broadcasts online meaning I can get my Lynn Rossetto Kasper fix while living overseas).  I was set to give the pho recipe a try then I turned the page and saw the Cambodian twist on the soup which sounded even more intriguing.  Unable to decide which version to make, I combined the best elements of both recipes to form what I present here.  You can also add or substitute ingredients as your palate or pantry dictates.

The verdict?  This soup is delicious but a lot more work than popping into your local pho shop. But if you don’t have one in close proximity to you, make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.


For the broth:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 two inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

6 whole cloves

1 star anise

Freshly ground black pepper

7 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

For the soup:

8 ounces linguine-style rice noodles

6 ounces thinly sliced top round steak

1 1/2 cups winter squash, diced

1 cup unsweetened pineapple chunks

1 medium tomato, diced

For the table salad:

10 sprigs fresh cilantro

8 sprigs Thai or other fresh basil

8 mint sprigs

Generous handful bean sprouts

2 Serrano chiles, thinly sliced

1 large lime, cut into wedges

Add-in sauces:

Asian hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

  • Place a rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler and then pre-heat the oven.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and evenly distribute the onion, garlic, ginger, cloves, star anise, and five grinds of black pepper over the baking sheet.
  • Broil for 5-6 minutes until the spices are fragrant and the onions begin to brown.  Scrape the mixture into a large soup pot.
  • Add the broth, sugar, fish sauce, and squash to the pot.  Cover the pot tightly and bring the entire mixture to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  • Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large pan and cover with very hot tap water.  Allow to soak for 20 minutes or until the noodles are tender.  Drain, rinse with cold water, then divide evenly between two large soup bowls.
  • Thinly slice the steak into bite sized pieces.  (Hint:  For easier slicing, place the steak in the freezer before you begin making the soup.  Allow it to sit for 20 minutes then remove it from the freezer and slice).  Evenly divide the meat between the two soup bowls.  The hot broth will cook it to a medium-rare
  • Arrange the table salad ingredients on a medium-sized platter and place on the table.
  • When the squash is tender, add the pineapple and tomatoes to the broth and stir well to combine.  Cook for 1 minute to allow the broth to return to a simmer.
  • Ladle the broth over the noodles and meat and serve immediately topped with the table salad and sauces of your choice.

Serves 2

Happy Trio Pad Thai

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love Thai food and one of the easiest dishes to make is pad Thai.  Tender noodles and a bit of sauce are combined with a protein of your choice to make this mouthwatering dish.  You can use meat, chicken, shrimp, tofu or a combination of all of them.  Rice noodles are traditional but if you can’t find them feel free to substitute linguine or another long noodle.  And this dish really cooks quickly so be sure to have all of your ingredients, including your serving dish and utensils, handy before starting to cook.


1/4 pound dried rice noodles

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic

1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 pound boneless chicken, cut into bite sized pieces

1/4 pound firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup carrots, julienned

4 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

1/4 cup chicken broth

1 egg, slightly beaten

3 green onions, coarsely chopped

2 cups fresh bean sprouts

1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Lime wedges for garnish

  • Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a rolling boil.  Add the noodles and remove the pan from the heat.
  • Let the noodles soak for 5 minutes them drain and rinse with cold water.  Transfer the noodles to a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok until it shimmers.  Add the garlic and toss well.
  • Add the shrimp, chicken, tofu, and carrots.  Cook for 2 minutes, tossing now and then, until the shrimp and chicken is cooked through.
  • Add the noodles and toss until they begin to soften and begin to curl in the hot pan.
  • Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and chili flakes and cook for 2 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Add enough of the chicken broth to prevent the noodles from sticking.
  • When the noodles are tender, push them to the side of the wok and add the remaining oil.  Add the egg, and once it is almost set, scramble it and set aside.
  • Add the onions and 1 cup of the bean sprouts, cooking 1 minutes or until the sprouts are shiny and begin to wilt.
  • Sprinkle the peanuts and lime juice over the top of the noodles and toss everything together.
  • Transfer to a serving platter, top with the remaining bean sprouts and garnish with lime wedges.

Serves 3-4

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