I can’t say many good things about my current hotel. It reeks of smoke, and this morning I woke up covered in what I can only hope are mosquito bites.
But the breakfast is outstanding.
Yesterday I had the rice noodle soup, and again was struck my the smoky taste. This time I had the mental wherewithal to get the recipe, which the lovely women behind the counter were more than willing to share.
The ingredient I couldn’t place was mushrooms, specifically shiitake.
It makes such perfect sense. Mushrooms are full of umami, and shiitake are the king of the pile, especially the dried ones, which have a more concentrated taste. In Singapore, I used to use dry mushroom powder as a soup stock base. I even made a dish of shiitake and stewed pork belly for my sister’s family just before leaving Indiana. Yet, somehow I didn’t make the connection.
This is the basic recipe. Sorry I can’t give precise measurements.
- Brown ground pork with shredded ginger, garlic and Sichuan peppercorns. To really scatter the pork, you can mix it with a whisk while it cooks.
- Add chopped green onions, ground sesame, shiitake mushrooms (reconstituted in water and chopped very fine) and Pixian chili paste 郫县豆瓣酱. This last one is important: Pixian is the standard for Sichuan cooking, and I have been told that if you can’t get it, just cook something else. You can buy it from Amazon, or substitute another brand, but do some Internet research to make sure you are getting a comparable taste.
- Finally, you will need an ingredient called “thirteen spices” 十三香. This smells vaguely like five spice powder, and is sold as a mix.
- Everything gets salted to taste, and fried together, the longer the better. You can add oil, but there is no other liquid: no vinegar, no wine, and no soy sauce. To serve, you simply place the meat on top of cooked noodles, either in broth or without, and garnish with green onions (which I prefer to the chives in the picture), cilantro and some chili paste.