It is now almost the end of February, also know as the time for second-year medical students start to develop paranoia and stress-induced hemorrhoid for the incoming national licensing exam in May. This year, unfortunately, I am one of them. That is the reason why I have been very MIA on blog and Instagram these days (Good excuse, right?).
Even with my notoriety for being lazy, I feel the pressure to start studying. So, last month, I started studying with a friend, mostly because I see him as someone who won’t grab my throat at after studying 10 hours a day, or vice versa. Yes, we freaking study 10 hours a day, and it is disgusting. But the good thing is I notice that I actually start to feel smart; when I am in a clinic these days, I can actually understand the words that used to sound too Martian. I feel that I am stepping into that doctor-y snobbish club, and part of me weirdly enjoys it.
Normally, I don’t apologize for my recipes for requiring one to spend time in the kitchen, partly because I personally don’t want to write the cooking as if it is a painful process, whose sole purpose is to produce food to satisfy hunger. I like decompressing and getting creative in the kitchen – it is a safe place, where my mistakes will not harm anyone. But, sadly, with a desire to do well on the upcoming exam, I have started rediscovering Burmese recipes that require only a minimal effort from my part, but still yields the snuggling comfort of home. (I have tried to recreate some Burmese recipes in an express way. However, there is no denying that I am lazy, and finding the original recipes that takes a flash to make just sounds more appealing to me at the moment).
This turmeric red-lentil and bean thread soup is one of those comfort foods. Every time I eat lentils, I feel like I am doing something good for my body, but the only downside about lentils is they are extremely tough, and can require unethical amount of time to cook. It is not hard, but on weekdays, waiting for a pot of soup is just not on my urgent to-do list. In contrast, slim red lentils cook extremely fast- with some preparation, I can make the pleasantly unfamiliar soup in about 15 minutes. This soup really celebrates turmeric and ginger even before hipsters in SF know how to spell them. With every slurp, I feel warm and rejuvenating essence of the spices, as evident by my runny nose and sweaty foreheads. Furthermore, the glass noodles (which, by the way, are made from the starch of mung beans, making them gluten-free) work really well in this dish because rather than competing texturally with red lentils, these smooth clear strands really complement the grainy texture of the lentils. For me, drinking this soup is like eating donut holes – I cannot just have one serving. So, I usually make two servings, and eat all in one sitting. I was never a person with self-control, and I refuse to start beating myself over a bowl of soup now.
Traditionally, it is supposed to be served as a side dish, along side with rice and a curry dish. However, for me, swigging a big bowl one mouthful after another while watching my lectures sounds like the only right thing to do at the moment.
Half an inch of ginger (smashed)
2 cloves of garlic (smashed)
4 tablespoons of red lentils (soaked for at least one hour – See the notes below)
100g of glass noodle , also called bean thread (soaked for at least one hour – See the notes below)
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 tablespoons of oil
¼ cup of chopped onions
6 cups of chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Soak the lentils and glass noodles in water for at least one hour. I usually soak mine the night before so I can make a quick meal whenever I feel the need to eat something.
Heat up the oil in a medium-sized pot, add in onion, garlic and ginger in a medium heat, and cook until onion bits start to soften (about 5 minutes).
Add turmeric powder, and stir to dissolve those golden specks into the oil. I absolutely love the pungent aroma permeates when warm spices hit the hot oil. Then, pour in the chicken stock, and crank up the heat on high and let the soup comes to a rolling boil.
Plunge in red lentil discs and touted glass noodles. Bring the soup to a boil, and let it simmer for 10 minutes, or until the noodle strands gone slippery and the lentils go almost mushy. Squirt in fish sauce, and season the soup accordingly. However, I want to suggest that you put pepper for this dish (I recommend ½ teaspoon) because the soup is all about celebrating the unconventional non-chili heat. Pepper really amplifies the back-throat warmth you get from the ginger.
Garnish with fried onions or garlic pieces, if they happen to be in your pantry. If not, just dive in and slurp while it is piping hot.
If you forgot to soak the lentils or the glass noodles, the only way to rectify is to increase the cooking time.