Rice Noodle Soup

Serves 6 

3 tsp. unrefined peanut oil or sesame oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 4-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced lemon grass
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick
2 star anise seeds
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
4 small dry red chilis
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. tamari
2 tsp. fish sauce
10 cups fish broth or chicken broth
10 ounces thin rice noodles (vermicelli)
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 lb. snow peas, Chinese broccoli or garden beans
1 lb. thinly sliced mushrooms
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish
¼ cup chopped scallions,  sliced thin, for garnish
Leaves from 1 small bunch Thai basil, for garnish
6 fresh green or red Thai bird chilis, slivered, for garnish
Lime wedges for each bowl

Place a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the peanut oil, and coat the bottom of the pot. When oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until softened and lightly browned. Add the stock. Add all the aromatics (ginger, lemon grass, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, coriander, fennel, dry chiles and turmeric) and stir well. Add the tamari, fish sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding solids. (May be prepared several hours ahead.)

While the stock is cooking, sauté the shallots and mushrooms in a skillet with a little oil. Heat a skillet with 3 Tbsp. oil and add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms until they are cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and remove from the  heat.

Put the rice vermicelli in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water. Stir noodles as they soften. Soak for about 20 minutes until tender. Cool in a colander under running water and drain. Reserve at room temperature.

To serve, bring soup to a brisk simmer. Add the peas and cook for about 2-3 minutes.   Divide rice noodles among 4 large soup bowls and top with the mushrooms. Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the cilantro, scallions and Thai basil. Pass the fresh chilis and lime wedges separately.

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