Let me tell you something…cooking is a luxury. I forgot. Or maybe I never even knew it until recently. This is so very unHappelsaucey of me, but I haven’t cooked a good meal in months. Seriously. Months. And it’s not because I haven’t wanted to. I guess it boils down to time, which seems to be flying by at lightening speed. Any free time I have is now a luxury and dare I say, I haven’t been motivated to cook anything that takes more than 15 minutes because it just takes too much time. I probably shouldn’t be admitting any of this. Oh well. Too late.
Needless to say, I’ve eaten some amazing meals these past few months. I’m certainly not starving. They just happen to be from restaurants. Just this afternoon, Joe and I ate a late lunch at Casa Sanchez in the Mission. I ordered the Caldo de Pollo. It came in a massive bowl – steaming broth, big slices of fresh zucchini and carrot, boiled chicken, salsa, chunks of peeled potato with a side of rice and corn tortillas. It was delicious. Also, side note: Die hard Casa Sanchez fans may opt to get this guy tattooed on their body and, in return, receive free lunch for life. The sign posted outside of the restaurant says so. We asked the server inside how many people have the tattoo and he said, “About 20.” Mas o menos. He said some people will get a fake tattoo and attempt to pass it off as the real deal. So, the guys who work there are dishing out Mexican fare and checking tiny flying corn man tattoos for authenticity. That’s work. I’m hoping my caldo was just the thing to kick this mild flu that’s been clawing at my throat and for the past two weeks. Gross. If it does the trick, I might get the tat. Probably not. Actually, definitely not. But it’s a fun thought to entertain for a second.
I have considered diversifying my Happelsauce entries because I’m not writing anymore. I miss it. Maybe I’ll just post food photos? Maybe I’ll write about the meals I eat at restaurants? It could happen. I’m not ruling out new ideas, but today I’ve got a recipe. It’s one that I’ve been wanting to post for some time. It’s the Vietnamese version of the Caldo de Pollo I ate today called Chao Xa Ga.
And it is utterly, satisfyingly wonderful. It is a cinch to make. 1 cup of rice absorbs 9 cups of chicken broth, so that takes a bit of time. Good things take time. Anyway, I first made this recipe back in May for Ellie and Drass. It was a hit. Then I made it again just for myself in June. Both times I substituted the chicken for roasted butternut squash and sweet potato, a great vegetarian alternative.
I remember feeling hesitant to post a hot porridge recipe in early summer. Mind you, when the rest of the country is basking in the sunshine and heat, us folks in San Francisco are bundled in scarves and bearing the brunt of the foggy bluster. But, now it’s mid-September and fall is here (in most places, not really here.) So please, without further ado, make this porridge. It’s versatile and soothing, fragrant with rich broth, fresh ginger and lemon. Deepdown satisfaction in a bowl.
Chao Xa Ga (Rice Porridge with Chicken)
9 cups chicken broth (I use Better Than Bouillon)
Large chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into smaller pieces
2 to 3 red bird’s eye or Thai chiles, stemmed
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup jasmine rice (or similar rice)
2 cooked chicken legs, boned, skinned and shredded
1 medium sized butternut squash, roasted and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium sized sweet potato, roasted and cut into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup julienned saw (ngo gai) or cilantro leaves
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges for serving
1. Pour the chicken broth into a pot and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the ginger, chiles and fish sauce and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the rice and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an 1 hour.
2. If you’re making the chicken version, stir it in. Continue to cook until the chicken is heated through, about 15 minutes, or if the chicken is freshly cooked and still warm, just until combined. Divide the porridge among 4 to 6 large soup bowls. If you’re making the veggie version, add the roasted squash and sweet potato. Garnish with the cilantro, peanuts and 1 wedge of lemon for each serving.