Oriental cuisine is often renowned for being flavoursome, but a little complex. Of course, in many cases – dim sum, for instance – both claims are true. Despite this, an even greater number of dishes, which find their roots firmly planted in the soil of the East, defy the latter assumption with their simplicity and accessibility. Granted, traditional ingredients can often be tricky to come by and often require time-consuming trips to out of town Asian supermarkets, but even specialist ingredients aren’t necessary across the board. Besides, a dish needn’t be explicitly authentic for it to be considered to be from a certain region.
It is important to consider, when talking about authenticity in food, that very little cuisine remains truly authentic. For instance, as Madhur Jaffrey highlights in the latest episode of BBC 4’s Food Programme, chillies, which have become synonymous with Indian cuisine, originated in the Americas before spreading far and wide. It seems unlikely that anyone would consider this recipe for noodle broth particularly authentic. It is more akin to a Westerner’s take on the Orient, with ginger and soy sauce – ingredients we visualise as traditionally Chinese in origin – featuring heavily.
An interesting point this dish raises is how well fusion food can work – you wouldn’t think of thyme and bay as suitable for a noodle broth, but they work particularly well. Of course, authenticity has its place in the world of food – consumers love to think they are experiencing “the taste of India”, even though no one region on the Asia subcontinent has the same “taste” as another. However, what makes food so interesting and timeless is finding flavours that work together in spite of their heritage and turning them into something magical.
• 100g rice noodles
• 1 litre chicken stock
• A small bunch of thyme
• 2-3 bay leaves
• A knob of ginger, finely chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
• A little dark soy sauce
• 1-2 small red chillies
• A few leaves of sweet basil
• 2 tbsp sesame oil
1. Fry the garlic and ginger off in a large pan using the sesame oil. Add the chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves, bring to a simmer and allow to infuse, with the lid on, for 15-20 minutes. Sieve the stock, removing all of the contents, return to the pan and pop in the uncooked noodles.
2. After simmering for 15 minutes the noodles should be cooked. Serve in bowls and top with finely slices chilli, a sprinkling of soy sauce and a few shreds of sweet basil.
Cost: The cost of this broth is kept low because it contains only chicken stock and no meat. Indeed, the entire pot, which will feed four for lunch, should set one back no more than around £1.80.