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September COTM “Vietnamese”: Soups

September 2008 Cookbooks of the Month: Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham and Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.

Please post your full-length reviews of soup recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the book or author and page number, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. This includes:


Chapter 2: A Bowl of Pho


Chapter 2: Essential Soups

Chapter 8: Noodles from Morning Until Night – Noodle Soup Recipes ONLY.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating!

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  1. Basic Rice Soup, IVK/Nguyen, Pg. 67
    This was served as an accompaniment to the Spicy Cabbage and Chicken Salad on page 50. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/553835

    What a great way to make soup!! We used Jasmine rice which was rinsed according to her direction, the broth from the poached chicken for the salad, plus white part of 2 scallions and a knob of fresh ginger. These last two are discarded before serving. It was done before the hour she said it would take and was absolutely delicious. To serve the soup is ladled into a bowl and salad is added to the bowl as desired..

    There's quite a bit of salad left over for lunch today.... I can see it used in a bun for a sandwich.. There's not a drop of the soup left.

    1. Roast Duck and Egg Noodle Soup (mi vit tim), PVT, p. 68

      As she mentions, if you can buy Chinese roast/barbecued duck - which is what I did - this is an easy and quick recipe (for AZ locals, I bought the duck at Lee Lee's Oriental Market).

      Saute sliced shallots and then add chicken broth (I used store-bought) and water, five-spice powder, sugar, a slice of ginger, and salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Cook fresh egg noodles - I really liked the brand I bought and they only took 10 seconds - top with duck, ladle hot broth over, and garnish with scallions and cilantro. E doesn't like bok choy so I left that out. This was a delicious satisfying soup, especially with a spoonful of marinated chiles.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Rubee

        Tomato Egg Drop Soup (Nguyen, pg. 59)

        Yum, yum, yum. What made this dish was the ground pork and my still sun warmed tomatoes in it. What was amazing is that it is water based, but it was so flavorful.

        Saute an onion until soft. Add chopped tomatoes and salt and simmer until the tomatoes collapse. Add water, fish sauce and ground pork and simmer for 15-20 minutes. When you are ready to serve, stir in the beaten eggs until they become ribbon like.

        I couldn’t believe that such simple ingredients made a water based soup taste so rich. It’s a really nice variation of a Chinese classic.

        1. re: beetlebug

          I made Nguyen's tomato egg drop soup a few days ago and loved it too! I agree that the ground pork adds a lot of flavor, and of course, good tomatoes help too. So simple and satisfying and pretty.

          I don't usually like the Chinese egg drop soup since it's too cornstarchy so much prefer this version that has none. For those who like Viet bun rieu, the broth tastes very similar except this has no crab or dried shrimp. Best eaten on the same day since I found the leftovers to lose the brightness and fresh taste from the day before.

          1. re: beetlebug

            Thanks for pointing this one out, beetlebug. I am pretty stingy about using my homegrown tomatoes and, without your recommendation, would have skipped right over this recipe. I'm so glad I didn't! Delicious.

            1. re: beetlebug

              I'll pile on with the raves for this - I made it for dinner last night, using some of the tomato innards left over from the pan-seared stuffed tomatoes the night before. I did combine those with some chopped beautiful ripe tomato that I had, and I made half a batch. Very easy, and my husband raved about it. I think the cilantro garnish gives it an added freshness.

            2. re: Rubee

              Roast Duck and Egg Noodle Soup (mi vit tim), PVT, p. 68

              I forgot how good this broth was with the flavor of five-spice and a hint of sweetness from the sugar. I had frozen what I had leftover and it made a wonderful Dunlop-Pham fusion lunch this week. I heated the broth to boiling, dropped in some of Dunlop's frozen wonton dumplings (LOP, p. 105), sliced green onion, and garnished with fresh chopped cilantro and drizzles of chili oil (LOP, p. 55). Just delicious.

            3. I had a need for Pho and I haven't found a good Vietnamese restaurant here in Dubai for my fix yet. Seeing the COTM thread, and that there were some recipes shared with epicurious, I took the vietnamese "pho" rice noodle soup with beef recipe from that site and had a go. Here's the link:


              A couple of substitutions:

              1. I didn't have any chuck (and my husband was getting impatient with my third trip to yet another grocery store that day - he was really ticked when I discovered I had no onions and sent him on trip number 4 later on...), so I used "meaty beef soup bones" - same weight as the chuck, along with the soup bones.

              2. I had some fresh lemongrass, so cut up a stalk and charred it along with the ginger and onion, then threw it in the pot at the same time.

              3. I discovered after hubby's "trip #4" that I had no cloves, so rather than risking divorce, chose to go without.


              1. The method that she recommends of boiling the beef separately first, then transferring to the stock pot worked brilliantly. I am considering using this whenever I make beef stock.
              2. I didn't take the meat off the meaty soup bones and use it in the finished product. After seeing the amount of meat that was left, I realised that I should have. However, by that point, it had been simmered a very long time and was lacking flavour. It went in the pets' supper dishes, and made them happy.
              3. When I measured out the 1/4 cup of fish sauce, it attracted every animal in the house.
              4. This was delicious. Absolutely wonderful, not that hard to make, and better than I've had in many Vietnamese restaurants. I will definitely make this again, though my husband is not a Pho fan... he got a small sampling, and I got a big bowl.
              5. I strained my leftover Pho stock to get the bits out (I was more lax in removing bits than the recipe stated), further reduced it, and now have concentrated Pho for those nights when my husband is working nights and I need my fix.
              6. My results were quite fatty - next time, I will try using the chuck rather than the soup bones, or in addition to, and make this the day before. Then I will be more dligent about skimming off fat, and also chill it overnight so I can remove the big chunks of fat before eating.

              I'm definitely intrigued by this book - I will explore any other recipes that are (legally) available, and start checking my local bookstores to see if its available here!

              3 Replies
              1. re: kali_MM

                Koreans do that boiling beef bit all the time to make the taste "cleaner." It's an excellent technique that can be applied to more than just Asian soups.

                I do love my Mai Pham book. After reading all of these COTM threads, I'm considering getting the other one -- like I needed another cookbook! : )

                1. re: Miss Needle

                  I'm in the process of making this today (first I've cooked from this book and first time I've made pho) and I DO think that first boil is brilliant and will use it for other things also. It's only been simmering a very short while and already smells great.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    This was a complete success. As good or better than anything one could get in a restaurant. I'd love it without the meat even. And Bob and I were talking today that, even though it's BEEF broth, the flavor is so 'other' than that, we'd cook anything in it, i.e., shrimp, pork. I have about 2-1/2 more quarts in the freezer and will be looking forward to more pho.

              2. Salmon with Tomato, Dill and Garlic Soup (Nguyen, pg. 65)

                Another delicious soup with a simple water base. The dill really comes through on this and it accented the salmon and dill perfectly. It’s not as rich as the egg and pork soup but equally delicious. Very similar prep as above but you first sear the salmon before you make your soup base. I’m not sure why this step was necessary but I did follow it. I think if you added the salmon in with the water, it would have been fine. Since the salmon and tomatoes were simmered with the water, it would have prevented the salmon from becoming overcooked.

                A very nice summer dish.

                3 Replies
                1. re: beetlebug

                  Quick update. I decided to add (soaked and drained) rice noodles to the soup for a quick savory breakfast. The soup's flavor had intensified even more, more vibrant especially in the dill, garlic and tomato flavors. A very satisfying breakfast.

                  1. re: beetlebug

                    I also tried Nguyen's salmon w/ tomato, dill and garlic soup. We absolutely loved this soup! Very clean, light flavors and so easy to put together. I think the browning of the salmon is to help it retain its shape and firm texture during simmering. I was worried that the small cubes would be overcooked after 15 min. simmering, but they were still moist. I also was concerned about adding the minced garlic to finish, but the garlic was not overpowering or too astringent at all. Before serving, I thought it was missing some bright acidity, so squeezed in some fresh lemon juice and thought it really came together.

                    I could see how this would be good for breakfast. I had a second bowl in which I added some jasmine rice and it tasted so homey and comforting. The first photo below is w/o rice whereas the second contains rice. I can't wait to try more of Nguyen's soups!

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      oooh. Rice with the soup. Great idea. For some reason, when I have stuff like this for breakfast, I go straight for the rice noodles.

                      This has to go back on the list because I still have a ton dill left. And, I should have a few ripe tomatoes as well.

                2. I posted about Nguyen's "Beef stewed with Tomato, Star Anise, and Lemongrass" pg 151 ITVK in the meats thread, but since it's really more of a soup, I thought I'd put a link here, too http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5538...

                  Very lovely soup, I thought!


                  1. ItVK, Pho Ga (Chicken Soup), p. 206 (?)

                    Hope I'm remembering that page number, I'm a little sleepy this morning. I made the broth last night, reserving the meat as she described about 25 minutes into the cooking. I haven't made the finished soup yet, as I'm defatting the broth in the fridge overnight. I've tasted the broth and meat, though, and I REALLY like this recipe and the techniques she uses. The meat is succulent and moist while the broth gets a fantastic deep flavor from the extra wings and backs. I didn't even have as many as she called for, but just used what I'd accumulated in the freezer. I was a little intimidated by the parboiling and rinsing steps, but am so happy with the results, I think I'll bother with that step in the future. The broth is clear and just beautiful, very appetizing. I also like that she uses coriander and cilantro to flavor the broth, rather than the usual pho bo star anise and cinnamon. Recipes I'd used for pho ga always included these, and they do overwhelm the chicken flavor now that I've tasted this lighter, more delicate broth. I can see where people might have particular preferences, but do give this one a try!

                    I'll report back after we have the finished soup this evening, if all goes as planned.

                    1. Creamy Corn and Shitake Mushroom Soup, Nguyen, p. 75

                      What a lovely and easy soup! Saute onions in oil, add the corn kernels, water and salt, simmer for 20 minutes, puree in the blender, strain, then reheat when ready to eat with sliced reconstituted shitakes, and chopped chives on top. It was a beautiful yellow color, and rich even though there was no dairy in it. Kaffir lime leaves are optional, and I did add some - a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the corn.

                      Note - she mentions in the back of the book to let the shitakes soak for at least 8 hours, but I did the usual 30 minutes and they tasted good to me.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Since I'm on this thread again ... I have made this soup several more times, once for a couple of hounds, and it really just is delicious. For that Vietnamese feast, I served just a small amount in demitasse cups while we were having drinks before dinner, along with some miniature banh mi.

                        2. Quick Pho, Pham

                          I thought I had posted about this before, since I did make it before, but we had it for lunch again today. In both cases, I'd finished making chicken stock, and then poured some off into a sauce pan, and added in the toasted star anise and cloves, black peppercorns, fish sauce, sugar, charred ginger and charred onion, then simmered for a bit. The first time, I added a chicken breast as prescribed, this time I had a whole chicken breast from making the stock, and shredded that meat instead. I boiled the noodles while the broth was simmering.

                          To serve - noodles, then some chicken, sliced onions and chopped cilantro in the bowl, with the broth poured on top. I served with Thai Basil, more cilantro, chopped scallions, bird chilies (so hot that my husband practically stopped breathing when it hit his throat - next time, no seeds!), more onions, and ground pepper. If you have home made broth at hand, this takes maybe 30 minutes at most. I've never had pho in a restaurant, but we've enjoyed this soup both times. I may have a photo somewhere - I'll post back if I find it.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Funny. Literally moments before I signed on here, I flipped open Lynn Rossetto Kasper's most recent cookbook (How to Cook Supper) to her recipe for pho, for which she said she was partially indebted to Pham. I've made Pham's pho (say that quickly, 5 times) several times and thoroughly enjoyed it; left Kasper's book open to that page to remind me to compare the two and see what is different.

                            The recipe in Pham's book is really good, the equal of some restaurant pho I've had. But it isn't as good--or at least, I've not been able to make it as well--as the best that I've had in many restaurants around here. Still, a really good pho is a wonderful thing!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I've been thinking about making the quick pho, and sort of wondered why no one else had done so. Glad it has been done, and that it is worth doing. Putting it back on my try list right now.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                I've made this over and over again - it's a great quick Saturday or Sunday lunch when I've just made chicken stock.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  And this is the perfect time of year for soup. Hmmm, maybe it is time to just do it. Thanks for reminding me.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Glad I found this. I always have chicken stock in the freezer and love these short cuts.

                                2. re: MMRuth

                                  Thx for reviving this thread - a winter reminder I need!
                                  Faux pho is fannnntastic. I like to start with broth made from smoked pork hocks/shanks.

                                3. Napa Cabbage and Shrimp Soup (Nguyen, pg. 58)

                                  Another water based soup that was a hit. I had a HUGE head of napa cabbage from my CSA box. I used half of it for the soup. I was a bit skeptical about this water based soup because it seemed too simple. Stir fry onion, then dried shrimp, salt and fish sauce. Add the napa and simmer for 5 minutes. Lastly, add 1/2 lb shrimp and taste for flavors. Before I added the shrimp, the broth tasted a bit bland. So, I added a squirt more fish sauce and more salt. When I ate the soup, I was pleasantly surprised that the napa and broth tasted almost buttery. Per Nguyen's suggestion, I added a bit of rice from my bowl into the soup bowl and it was lovely.

                                  I'm eager to have this soup for breakfast with some rice vermicelli. This one is a keeper and I know I'll make it again.