Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

French Fridays with Dorie

Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “comfort zones”. You know, those states of behavior wherein one operates in an “anxiety-neutral space”. I know it even sounds boring but we all do it. You get to cruise along at a steady output comfortable in the knowledge that while what you do lacks in challenge it makes up for in steady, satisfactory results. We tend to cling to things we know we do well when faced with other alternatives that might seem daunting or unsure. This behavior goes on in all areas of our lives and I have confronted it many times in my personal life once I have been able to correctly tag it as a comfort zone issue. Once I recognize it I usually immediately go into challenge mode and head it off straight on. There was the time I realized I was in a subtlety abusive relationship. I saw that I was clinging to it as something ‘known’ was more comfortable than the supposed insecurity of the unknown future, ‘single state’. Once I saw it that way my bags were packed and I never looked back. Venturing out of that zone turned out fantastic and showed me that there were big rewards for accepting short term discomfort! So when I hear the phrase “comfort zones” my mind immediately goes to this type of areas where I frequently face my own fear of discomfort such as relationships, career, casual discussions involving professional sports, etc.

So what does this have to do with French Friday’s With Dorie? (We are the group cooking along together, week after week, all the recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s new book “Around My French Table“.) For the last two weeks I have perused the various (and beautiful!) posts from my fellow Doristas and invariably I see the phrase “outside my comfort zone” uttered in the context of a particular week’s recipe. Never mind that most of these come from quite accomplished bakers from Dorie’s other web clatch, Tuesdays with Dorie, and that most of these bloggers can roll a pie crust or pipe a frosting as good as any of them! (During gougeres week I must have seen the phrase used at least two dozen times!) “How silly!”, I thought. ” How dramatic can you be?”, I opined. “Its just a recipe!”, I declared.

When I saw this week’s recipe I was underwhelmed. I’m not a big Asian food cook. I think I once made lettuce wraps and that was a long time ago. While they turned out great, I think they were more authentic to P.F. Changs than Xiānggǎng. “I’ll just sit this one out”, I thought to myself. “Besides, it’s not even really French is it…I never cook Asian food! It’s outside my comf….” Oooph. Did I just say that? Uh oh. Did I just use “comfort zone” for a simple recipe? So true to form (and as a result of years of conditioning shaped by countless therapy sessions) I realized that my behavior was on the brink of being modified due to a fear of temporary discomfort and anxiety at the expense of long term gain. At that point had no choice but to set out and attack the recipe with gusto. (And speaking of comfort zones, I had to brave not one, but two Asian markets to get all the ingredients!)

So here it is! And like just as all the other trips outside my zone it ended with the same sense of accomplishment and high reward. This soup was as truly delicious as it was easy to make. Supposedly it is a hybrid of two types of Vietnamese soups, pho ga, a chick broth based soup, and la sa ga, a coconut based curry soup. Dorie skips the curry and combines the two into one noodly, chickeny brothy bowl of great taste. Next time I may just mix it back in as Dorie explains how to do. (I’m just that comfortable now!) I served it with all of the suggested mix-ins: Thai basil, bean sprouts, limes, cilantro, hoisin sauce, chili oil, etc. so people could create to their own tastes and spicy tolerance levels. The broth is delicious but it is the additions that make this soup so do try to have them all available. (That is where you will get most of the ‘spicey’ in this dish. ) My family seemed to have a lot of fun with this and its a neat trick as when family can essentially customize and flavor their soup, the likelihood that they all will like it increases. It worked here! Huge hit!

Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

I’m skipping the process photos this week because, well… they weren’t very attractive and I don’t want to scare you off! (Any Doristas out there reading this will know what I mean!) And since we aren’t supposed to post recipes in the hopes that you will buy the book yourselves (and you really should) I will have to promise for now to update here if I find a link to it elsewhere. But if you must have the recipe, leave a comment here or contact me and I’ll be sure to get one to you.

But only if you promise to cook outside your comfort zone!

 -Since originally writing this piece Asian noodle soups have established themselves way within my comfort zone.  So far in, in fact, that I am even writing about them for a cool website called  (Guess what they sell? lol.) Check out them out here for my latest recipe, a delicious Vegetarian Nabeyaki Udon noodle soup. – Trevor.

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don’t know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]” means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small ‘boom’ in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a “food blog” or even myself a “food blogger”.

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  1. You may have been outside your comfort zone, but you did a wonderful job. Your photos are great and the soup looks so delicious.

  2. Your soups have been beautiful lately. This one especially. Speaking of “comfort” While I have never made this soup before it is comfort food to me. Whenever I get a cold the only thing that makes me feel comfortable (even for a short while) is this sort of soup. So you may be out of your comfort zone, but you are solidly in mine. I just hope the craving you have given me for this soup does not mean I am getting a cold. GREG

    PS If you wanna have a foodbuzz conv maybe we should chat on the phone.

  3. Wasn’t this super easy. I thought it was super flavorful so the payoff was good. (easy-flavorful) yeah! thats a good combo. Loved the post and it fun to have an interactive meal for friends and fam. Beth

  4. I just love reading your posts. Your soup and photos are beautiful!

  5. Here’s to getting out of our comfort zones! That’s where the interesting things usually happen, in my experience.

  6. Pho makes an AWESOME breakfast on a cold day! It was so funny watching all the Vietnamese sitting on kid sized plastic chairs eating their pho at roadside stands on their way to work in the morning. Ah to be back in Vietnam….

  7. Enjoyed reading your post! It was an experience wasn’t it!?

  8. Your thoughts about the comfort zone are spot on!
    And now, I have a whole bottle of fish sauce left with which I can wade even further out past my comfort zone!

  9. Your soup looks hearty, tasty, fresh and delicious!

  10. This looks like it was very much IN your comfort zone – definitely out of mine – but it was an adventure! Great way to look at it…. you’ve really captured the authentic look to this soup – I would think this was in a Vietnamese restaurant! Nicely done!

  11. Your soup is beautiful! I love the bean sprouts on top of yours- I couldn’t find any that weren’t icky. This was out of my comfort zone this time, but next time it won’t be!

  12. Great post! I think we all need to take a step outside our comfort zones or into them with great food.

  13. This really does look very good. I think I would like it, and perhaps Jenn (even though she’s not a soup person), but I’m sure my husband wouldn’t touch it. I will have to look for the recipe though (and just make it for ME).

    I loved your discussion of comfort zones – I think you hit the nail on the head there and then brought it around to food – I was impressed. Now I need to break out of my comfort zone a little. Thanks

  14. Beautiful post. Glad your efforts to step out of your comfort zone were well rewarded.

  15. Oh yum! Sounds like a definite repeat!

  16. Soup looks great! I’m enjoying your other non-FFwD posts as well. Everything looks delicious!

  17. Yay for stepping outside your comfort zone! I was a little underwhlemed at this week’s choice at first too – not because it’s Asian, but because it’s soup. But I loved it too! Your photos are beautiful – especially like the Asian-patterned bowl.

  18. Lovely photos – yours always turn out well!

  19. It looks like the soup came out great, and very nice pictures of it.
    I agree, it is good to push through one’s comfort zones and experience the anxiety as something to encourage motivation.

    Although, I am looking forward to making this soup on a cold, anxiety-free, very comfortable day. With a good movie.

  20. I totally get what you are saying! I had to think of this as “chicken noodle soup” not Asian, vietnamese, or curry (as mine ended up being).

    I have to get in the mindset that these are just recipes, a bit different from the basic, normal, everyday…and therefore worth the attempt!

  21. For me, it was eating mustard pie that was outside my comfort zone. This soup was very much like soups I make all the time, so it was an easy one for me. Yours looks excellent!

  22. TWO Asian Markets? You are brave!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Your photo is exquisite — I particularly enjoy the different textures visible when one examines it at full size — but it’s your sensitivity to and expression of your state of mind, as you tackled this project, that makes the post memorable.

    Like the modernist writers, you show that each moment of human apprehension is potent with meaning and substance. Thank you for observing and relating that so well.


  24. As I stepped into your house, for a moment I felt like I had stepped back in time. The aroma that filled the house transported me back to my time in Vietnam. A short while later I was served the most amazing soup, the likes of which I have not had since my Asian adventures . . .the first spoonfull follwed by the awakening of my taste buds . . . WOW!
    Thank you the temporary time travel.

  25. Thank you Ms. M! (There you have it folks! She was actually there to taste this!) eatinthemiddle, you have NO idea! lol.

  26. Love your blog! Your pic looks awesome!

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