Sweet & Spicy Cabbage Soup

This soup (or soupy stew, because there isn't that much liquid) is one I made a little while ago from odds and ends in the fridge. It was one of those dinners that turned out unexpectedly wonderful, but because of the unexpectedness, camera batteries weren't charged and notes weren't written down and there was no blogpost.

Last night I tried to recreate it and it was just as good as the first time I made it - even better becauase of the last minute addition of mint and coriander.

Whenever I cook something 'Asian inpired' I repeat this mantra in my head : Hot Sour Salty Sweet Hot Sour Salty Sweet Hot Sour Salty Sweet. It's the title of a book I don't even own (but covet) (and the authors of this book also have a website that I haven't really begun to explore yet). But to think of these flavors really helps when you're looking for the right balance in Asian dishes. If you consider the 4 flavors as working together like a little symphony, where none of them really takes the central stage but they all tune in together to create a harmony, it's a lot easier to adjust the seasonings (in this case, Hot Sour Salty Sweet - chili, citrus juice, fish sauce, and cabbage). When using other vegetables I might add a bit of sugar, but because cooked cabbage is so naturally sweet, that wasn't really necessary.

Spicy Sweet Cabbage Soup
serves 2, with leftovers for lunch the next day

a piece of carrot, about 125 grams, cut into matchsticks
150 grams cabbage, shredded
750 ml chickenstock
1 tablespoon sunflower oil or other flavorless oil
200 grams lean miced meat (I used beef, but you could substitute chicken, turkey or pork)
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon minced ginger
1 heaping teaspoon chili paste (I used sambal badjak)
a splash of soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
a squeeze of lemon or lime juice (preferably lime, but I still have 5 lemons lying around so that's what I used)
finely chopped mint and coriander, about 2 tablespoons
sriracha, to serve

Heat the chicken stock in a large pan. Add the carrots and cabbage and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
meanwhile, heat the oil in a small frying pan. When it's hot, add shallots and garlic and ginger. Cook for a couple of minutes until the soften, then add the meat, breaking it up with a fork while you brown it. When it's nicely browned, add the contents of the frying pan to the pan with the stock and cabbage. Also add the chili paste at this point.
When the cabbage is tender, add the fish sauce, soy sauce and lemon or lime juice, and a bit of salt. Taste, and adjust seasonings (chili, lemon, fish sauce, soy sauce) as necessary.
Just before serving, stir in half the chopped mint and coriander. Rinse the cooked noodles with hot water and pile them into 2 deep bowls. Spoon the soup on top, garnish with the rest of the mint/coriander, add a little swirl of sriracha and serve.

Slurping is mandatory.

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