Security Blanket. Comfort Food for the Lost Soul

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8am. It’s raining outside. My hair is a frizzball. My body too lazy to move for its own good. Still obligations await and (other people’s) business to settle. With all the willpower that I have, I get out of the house swimming in a shirt so loose you can barely see my body. On top of it is a shawl/scarf/blanket/rug (fashion police can sue me). Hide me hide me. If I have to get up and present myself to the world, the least I can do is be comfortable wearing whatever I want and not giving a damn about how hideous it looks.

Dear reader, let me be presumptuous here and say that we all feel that way once in a while (well, some more than others). It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning suddenly pondering the meaning of our existence, thinking about the holiday we want so bad but never have the time to or even worse thinking about our mom whom we haven’t talked to for a month. It’s easy to walk away, leaving everything behind, and it’s easy to make excuses not to. Most of us creatures of habit are wired to fear the unknown and resist changes.

That’s alright. Fall back to the familiarity. Hold tight to your security blanket. Just know that at the end of all the cuddling you are not to feel contented or complacent but to gain energy and the newfound courage to face the unknown and embrace changes. I know it has worked for me, being the unpredictably moody creature that I am.

My security blanket is, well, as you just discovered in horror, literally a blanket where I can hide myself despite being surrounded by humankind. When it comes to food, I crave for hot soupy things. Some time ago, it was this porridge that cheered me up, but since we are on the topic of changes, this bánh canh is something I recently turned to. It is warming, effortless and oh-so-addictive. The use of pork shanks accompanied by vegetables such as carrots, daikons or jicamas releases an amazing umami taste that makes this a versatile broth that can go well with all types of noodle. My usual choices are bee tai mak (which I find very similar to Vietnamese bánh canh) and glass noodles.

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7pm. Still raining outside. I trudge home carrying my groceries bag humming to this. Right after putting the broth on the stove to let the bone cooking away, I take a long shower, still humming to that song. Where do I want to go? How much do I want to risk? If there’s any perfect time to get all philosophical about life, shower time it is. Coming back to planet earth, in 30 more minutes, the soup will be done, I will be in my third-day hair on a Friday night slurping that smoothness crying my eyes out from the liberal amount of pepper and chilli flakes. What else is more comforting? Sharing this with friends, slurping together while we talk about days when we don’t give a damn about frizzy hair and hideous clothing.

Dear reader, you’re welcome to join us if you’d like to.

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What you’ll need:
Serves 5
For the broth
400 gr pork bone
200 gr lean pork
2 carrots
Salt, sugar, fish sauce

To garnish:
2 stalks of spring onion
2 stalks of coriander
Fried shallots
Chilli flakes (optional)
400 gr of your choice of noodle

Here’s how:

  1. Quickly blanch the bone and meat until the color turns pale. Discard the water, wash away all the scum.
  2. Return the bone and meat to the pot filled with about 2 liters of water.
  3. Mean while, peel the carrots, cut into chunks and drop them into the soup pot. Let it simmer for about 1 hour, occasionally skim off the scum floating on top.
  4. Halfway through, remove the lean meat and slice into thin pieces.
  5. Remove the carrot chunks when they soften and cut into bite-size pieces.
  6. Finely chop the spring onion and coriander.
  7. Blanch the noodle.
  8. Season the broth with salt, sugar and fish sauce to taste.

To assemble:

In a serving bowl, place the noodle, followed by carrot pieces and meat slices. Ladle the hot broth on top and garnish with spring onion, coriander and freshly ground pepper.

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