Monday, 25 July 2011

Thai Duck & Noodle Soup

I've been dying to try this recipe out, ever since I first saw it in Keith Floyd's Thai Food. Just the image of this rich, dark broth makes me salivate.

We had crispy duck with Chinese pancakes for dinner on Friday night and, as usual, I saved the carcass, bones and giblets from the duck to use in another dish. As an aside, crispy duck is so easy to make - you just roast it on a rack at 170 degrees for 4 hours, then 30 mins at 220 degrees. Job done, thanks Nigella!

This stock is very different to my usual rough home stock, the ingredients are much more exotic and the liquid is incredibly flavourful almost right from the start.

First, pop two star anise and a cinnamon stick on the heat in a large, dry pan for half a minute or so. Then add all of your duck, five fat (or ten small) crushed cloves of garlic and four pints of water (about 2 litres). Stir in 2 tbsp of palm sugar * (or brown sugar) and 6 tbsp each of dark soy sauce and nam pla (fish sauce).

A handful of chopped ginger next, along with one of the more unusual ingredients: 5 bruised coriander roots. I headed out to the garden and pulled up a clump of coriander that was going to seed, you could do the same with a wilting pot from the supermarket. 
I separated out the roots to wash and then hung the stalks, with their seeds attached, upside down to dry. I put the roots I wasn't going to use out to dry in the sun on a teatowel.

When the broth came to a boil, I popped a lid on, turned the heat down and left it to simmer for an hour and a half.

In the meantime I tore up some lettuce leaves, washed and spun them dry. I didn't have any beansprouts so I cut a fresh carrot into thin strips to lend that crunchy texture. I also sliced up some spring onions and a red chilli.

I put a small sliced green chilli into a little bowl, covered it with vinegar and left it to steep. I had run out of cider vinegar so I used white wine vinegar instead; I can't say the difference was particularly noticeable.

When the soup was ready it was just a matter of draining it through a colander into a fresh pan and keeping it warm while I cooked some flat noodles from the cupboard. I had Japanese style dried udon, so that's what I used.

The noodles go in the bowl first, followed by the lettuce, sping onion, carrots (or beansprouts) and red chilli. The small amount of leftover duck meat I had went on top, along with a drizzle of garlic oil. Then a few generous ladlefuls of soup, fresh coriander leaves and a few teaspoons of the chilli vinegar.

It was as good as I'd dreamed it would be from looking at that photo in the book. I would definitely make this again.

A note on palm sugar:

Please don't confuse palm sugar with palm oil (or the oil palm). I've read and heard a few people saying how we shouldn't use "palm sugar/oil" because of the environmental impacts of producing it. 

Palm oil plantations have been directly linked with deforestation and thus the endangerment of orangutangs and many other animals, as well as destroying the lives of the people living nearby. Palm oil comes from the oil palm, whereas palm sugar comes from the palmyra palm (or date palm or coconut palm) - these are all completely different plants.

I strongly suspect that the palm sugar industry isn't all roses and light either, however I don't think it deserves to be boycotted due to a misunderstanding about its name.

Palm oil presents a much greater threat and I'd encourage you to examine products you buy with palm oil in them and at least check the sustainability rating of the supplier. 
Interestingly, palm sugar tapping could possibly present a part of the solution to the palm oil problem. I haven't been able to get hold of Masarang palm sugar yet (see below), but I'm on the look out for it. 

Palm Oil
Palm Oil Wiki
Palm Oil article by Greenpeace
Palm Oil article in the Independent (2009)
Palm Oil usage list from Panorama
Palm Oil article by the Rainforest Action Network
Interesting article about sustainable palm oil from The Ecologist 
Friends of the Earth: Greasy Palms expose
Palm Sugar
In depth look at non-wood forest products, including palm sweeteners, as a sustainable source of income for forest and near-forest communities (FAO/UN)
Palm Sugar Wiki
Treehugger article on palm sugar tapping as an alternative industry to palm oil 
IPS article on the impact of producing palm sugar vs palm oil
Sugar Palm Tree - The Masarang Foundation 
Earth Day: Saving the World's Orangutangs - Willie Smits

1 comment:

  1. HI, Thank you very much I shall try this. Funnily I was always wondering about the link between palm sugar and palm oil. It's great to know I can continue to use palm sugar in Thai cooking without worrying about my beloved orangutans.
    Also I don't grow my own coriander as i've not really got a great place for it but I do occasionally buy the plants. It's almost impossible to buy fresh coriander roots so next time the pot from the super market dies I've at least got some roots I can put in the freezer. Can't believe I didn't think of it earlier :)