The past several months have not been the greatest for me, health-wise. I’ve suddenly developed an allergy that causes my arms and legs to be covered with rashes the size of mosquito bites that itch equally. Luckily, the rashes appear sporadically (should I even call that lucky?) so I haven’t turned into a Telfast and Zyrtec addict yet. I’ve been to different doctors and none of them can provide me with a diagnosis of the allergy. I even gave holistic medicine a try and the doctor gave me a long list of foods that I was intolerant to and should refrain from consuming for at least 6 months.
Then I came down with a mild case of the common cold, which again, I guess I should be thankful for, since the people around me have caught worse cases of the cold and sore throat. I decided it was time to give homemade chicken noodle soup a shot. I figured it would be a good remedy for colds and sore throats, with its soul-healing attributes and all. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed in the results. Oh, the soup came out alright but it was a tad too bland (I didn’t want to use too much salt, since I was going for healthy).
All-Natural Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul
(Makes 12 servings)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced (I omitted the celery for this recipe as it was one of the foods on my food intolerance list)
- 1 leek, cut into thin strips
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 9 cups chicken stock (again, I substituted leeks for celery this time)
- 1/2 pack (250 g.) linguine, cooked
- 350 g. chicken tenderloins, cut into bite-sized chunks
- a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
- salt and black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, carrots, leeks, celery and chicken for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables become soft.
Add the broth and the thyme and bring to a boil.
Add the linguine and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley to serve.
So there. Gone for almost 2 years and the best I can do is to come back with a recipe for mediocre chicken noodle soup. At least I made it with love and good intentions, and I hope it was able to warm the soul of someone with a cold.
I’ve been back in the UK for a month now and it still amazes me how time flies. Another astonishing fact is how little I know about the town that I’ve been living in for the past 11 months. It’s one of those moments when you keep saying you’re going to visit a certain place but you never get around to it because something always comes up and before you know it, time has flown by and you’ve been living here for almost a year but you still haven’t gotten anywhere or done anything. Okay, I’m blabbering here…just bear with me, I have some things on my mind lately and I haven’t really been myself these past few weeks.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I’ve discovered a wonderful scenic place just recently and the view just overwhelmed me. Okay, I can’t really say I “discovered” this place, since Richmond Park is the largest park in London, which is pretty hard to miss. The national reserve is home to various animals such as deer, foxes, wild rabbits, and geese, and they are all allowed to roam freely in this massive park.
On my first day at Richmond Park, I spent 3 hours just wandering around (and still didn’t cover all grounds). I trekked through a jungle of overgrown ferns, feeling like I was in the Amazon rainforest; it was so isolated and peaceful that it could’ve been a scene from Anaconda, right before the giant boa jumps out to get the victim. I tramped through a savannah, consciously afraid that a hidden leopard might leap out at me any minute while a herd of deer grazed lazily nearby. I climbed up steep hills that left me breathless, both from the workout and the magnificent view at the top. I crossed a pond (no, I didn’t swim…there is a path that separates the two ponds) and watched a flock of geese playing follow the leader.
I came home with extremely sore legs that I knew would get even worse the following day but it was all worth it. Seriously, how many deer do you expect to see in a city as urban as London??
Settled snugly in a block of run-down buildings across from the Scala Cinema movie theater is Bangkok Shark Fin, a modest restaurant that my family has been visiting for decades. Next to a small entrance, a glass window displays rows of shark fins. Pushing open the swinging glass doors that doesn’t shut completely, you will find yourself in a dingy room with cheap wooden tables and overhead tungsten lighting. Nothing about the humble atmosphere screams elegance or exorbitance; in fact, it’s the complete opposite. But there must be something about this place to have kept it in business for decades, and that is the quality and taste of the food.
It’s my family tradition to have a big Chinese feast whenever we have get-togethers for someone’s birthday, and shark fin soup is a staple in those meals. I have a big family so I’ve tasted shark fin soup from quite a number of establishments over the years. Some of those experiences had been mediocre; a faint memory that is only conjured up as a reminder never to visit those particular establishments again. A few are more memorable although some still lack consistency in their food preparation, with the food sometimes being delicious and sometimes just average. At Bangkok Shark Fin though, I am comforted by the assurance that the shark fin soup here will not disappoint, and it hasn’t so far.
The waitress bustled around us, setting down the clay pots containing the shark fin soup (1,000 baht/pot) in front of us with a warning that the pots were extremely hot. Glancing into the pot, the dark amber liquid was boiling away madly like molten lava inside a volcanic crater. Shark fins shaped like Chinese fans lurked beneath the broth, almost as if too shy to reveal its beautiful golden threads. White tidbits of crab meat and morsels of shiitake mushrooms floated like islands in the rich soup. Fragrant coriander leaves and white needles of bean sprouts are served as condiments on the side. The gelatinous strands of shark fin, chewy mushrooms and crunchy bean sprouts add an array of texture to the deep-flavored broth, making this dish a party for the palate.
Quick-boiled Chinese kale came neatly stacked and dressed with glistening oyster sauce on a plate (300 baht). The thick stems had been carefully peeled, leaving only the tender, crispy light green stalks. It was a simple but classic dish that’s hard to go wrong.
This is quite a meal in itself but for those of you with a big appetite, you can try the Pomfret Steamed in Plum Sauce (400 baht). A large mound of ginger slivers and pork fat strips covered most of the fish, with plump, juicy plums peeking out from underneath. Chinese food can be a bit oily but the pungent ginger and tartness of the plums helped cut down the oiliness of this dish as well as adding sharpness to the mildly seasoned fish.
Crab Claws or Prawns Baked with Vermicelli in Clay Pots (800 baht each) are another popular choice here, although my family claims Uncle makes it better. The faint aroma of spices were pleasing to the nose, although I was so full by this time that I only tasted a mouthful of each. The crab claws were packed with meat that easily fell off upon biting into them, but the prawns were a bit overcooked, resulting in the meat being too mushy. The vermicelli were lightly seasoned with a hint of soy sauce. The verdict? My uncle’s version is definitely more flavorful. Looks like I’ll have to ask him for the recipe one day!
We polished off the meal (feast might be a better word) with Gingko Nuts in Syrup (180 baht), which was refreshing and had just the right sweetness. This experience just goes to prove that great company and great food can make up for what’s missing in the ambience.
Bangkok Shark Fin
218/3-4 Siam Square Soi 1
Rama 1 Rd., Pathumwan
Tel: 02-251 -0987, 02-250-0976
Open: Daily 10:00am-11:00pm