Last night I had one of those great moments with one of my kids. You know, the ones that warm you through to the core but that you know you’ll forget someday if you don’t write it down? Lucky for me, it was a cooking moment, and I happen to write about cooking, so this memory will get permanently put to paper.
Every week, we watch the Amazing Race as a family, because we love to travel and, more importantly, we love to guess which dysfunctional partners will self-implode by the third leg.
Two episodes ago, the race took place in Vietnam, and one of the challenges required the participants to shop at the local market for a list of ingredients used in the traditional chicken noodle soup dish, pho. On seeing this, my eight-year old daughter Georgia got extremely animated and yelled at me to pause the TV, then rewind to the ingredient list. She got out a marker and paper and copied down the shopping list (no amounts, no instructions) and then announced: “Mommy, you and I are going to make our own pho.” I reminded her that it would need to be a vegetarian version and we didn’t really have a recipe, so we’d have to wing it a bit, but she was good with that. So on my next trip to the market, I picked up the basic ingredients, and last night we decided to try our luck at pho.
Right after school, Georgia washed her hands, got out her apron and started piling ingredients from her list onto the counter. She said “wait a minute, we’re missing something!” and turned on Taylor Swift’s latest album at full blast on the ipod (music and cooking go together in our kitchen). She painstakingly wrote down each ingredient in a crayola marker on a sheet of pink (of course!) paper as we added it, peeled carrots, tore kale, measured cloves and coconut oil, and stirred tofu. She sniffed and tasted and sang. She got annoyed when I made her guess how to spell ingredients, and even more annoyed when I changed amounts after she’d written them down. After an hour or so, we had a recipe, and a big pot of steaming pho.
Of course, this meal deserved the full treatment, because she’d made it after all, so Georgia set a fancy table and asked me to light the candles. After she’d seated her dad and brother and me, she announced: “On your first flight, you will be transported to Vietnam, so I’ll need your passports please” (really!) and then proceeded to serve each person their bowl. Of course, as we always do when a child has had a hand in a meal, we raved about the pho (which was actually extremely tasty) and all had seconds. And my kid beamed like a cheshire cat for the rest of the night and took the leftovers to school today. I’m guessing everyone is Mrs. Webber-Frail’s Grade 3 class probably took a trip to Vietnam too.
This is one of the best nights I’ve ever had with my girl, the kind I dreamed we might someday have when she was just a wee baby, watching her cooking a healthy meal with pride, creating a recipe without fear, and having a blast doing it with her mom.
I promised her I’d post the recipe, so here it is, in a slightly more user-friendly format than hers :).
1-454g package of dried rice noodles
1 tbsp coconut oil, + 1 tsp for cooking tofu
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
2 shallots, finely chopped
8 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp crushed chili flakes
1 tsp miso paste
3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
juice of two limes
3 carrots, sliced thinly
4 green onions, sliced thin
1.5 cups de-stemmed, chopped kale
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
454 g extra-firm tofu
Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic and shallots until softened.
Add the broth, cinnamon sticks (don’t worry, you’ll remove them before eating!), ginger, cloves, chili flakes, miso paste, soy sauce, and lime juice and stir. Then add the carrots, cabbage, onions, kale and basil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until carrots are softened.
In the meantime, cube the tofu into small, 1 cm cubes and saute in 1 tsp melted coconut oil over medium heat in a separate pan until golden. Remove from heat and add tofu to soup mixture.
Also in the meantime, boil a kettle full of water, place the dried noodles in a large bowl, then pour the boiling water over the noodles, making sure they are submerged. Let them sit for about 20 minutes or until cooked (probably best to check specific package directions).
Place cooked noodles in bottom of each soup bowl. Remove cinnamon sticks from pot, and ladle soup mixture on top of noodles in each bowl.