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COMFORT FOOD : Forget frivolous fare. Ignore the exotic. In times of trouble we turn to the familar and seek the solace of home. : Foods that reassure: Big breakfasts. Warm doughnuts. A simple steak. Beef stew. And ambrosia. : A Few of Our Favorite Things : . . . And Noodles That Look Like Rain

January 24, 1991|MINNIE BERNARDINO

What comforts me depends upon my mood--and upon the season.

Sometimes I need sweet cold comforts: the luscious bite of an ultra rich flan (provided it is made with egg yolks and bathed in a pale amber caramel), a small scoop of old-fashioned French vanilla ice cream, or (in times of caloric consciousness) even the icy tang of citrus sorbet.

Other times the only thing that will soothe me is a steaming bowl of noodle soup with chicken. In my island childhood, whenever the heavy rains came we were stuck inside the house. Soon we would smell the toasty aroma of frying garlic and know that Mother was making soup with sotanghon (bean thread noodles), green onions and fish sauce. As the rain drummed on the roof we sat there slurping the sotanghon, competing with the sound; we even thought the long round transparent strands looked like the rain.

Now when I cook and serve sotanghon, I reminisce about the rain-- and it appeases my soul.

BEAN THREAD SOUP

WITH CHICKEN

(Sotanghon)

1 small chicken, cut up

2 tablespoons oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 quarts water

Salt

White pepper

Fish sauce or to taste

3 ounces bean threads or cellophane noodles

1 small carrot, peeled and shredded

3 green onions, finely chopped

Lemon wedges

Trim extra fat from chicken. Heat oil in stockpot over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until golden brown and crisp. Remove garlic and reserve. Saute onion in remaining oil until tender. Add chicken, water, salt and white pepper to taste and 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Cover and simmer until chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes. (To remove extra fat from chicken, refrigerate mixture overnight and skim off fat that floats on top.)

Soak noodles in warm water to cover about 10 minutes. Drain and cut in thirds using scissors.

Remove chicken from pot, remove bone and skin. Shred chicken meat and return to broth. Bring to boil. Drop in noodles and simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Add carrots and cook 1 minute. Adjust seasonings to taste. Stir in reserved garlic. Serve with lemon wedges and fish sauce on side. Garnish with green onions. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Chicken pieces may be left with bone in. Also 2 to 3 pounds chicken wings may be substituted for whole chicken.

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