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Instant Soup Noodles, the joys of Pho and the blessings of Ho Chi Minh

If you are familiar with Tempopo -- the Japanese movie that tells of the quest for the best of all possible noodle soups -- then you can imagine perhaps what ails me.

I am a soup noodle junkie.If I eat out in an Asian restaurant I more often than not order from their soup noodle menu.

My engagement with the ubiquitous instant noodle soups of Asia, and especially my favorite Indonesian brands, has been long standing. Of late I nonetheless have been eating Maggi's 2 minute noodle brand which registers a low GI I also eat Maggi in order to reduce the fat quotient in the meal as instant wheat noodles are first fried before being packed.

My daughter is recently diagnosed with Coeliac disease so we went looking yesterday for rice based instant fare.

If you have ever gone instant soup noodle hunting in Asian shops you'll be overwhelmed by the numbers and variety of products. Asian students studying in Australian capitals live off them and the consequent demand has driven the market.

The problem is that most of these soup packets are printed in Asian languages with only a small , usually pasted on slip -- with mininscule writing -- in English listing the packet's ingredients. So there's only one option: buy and try.

However, since the eating of instant noodle soups can be as gastronomic as you want to make it here's a couple of tips.

My first tip is to make sure you check your brand options with the many reviews and ratings on noodle son. Noodle Son is a Seattle based site dedicated to the appreciation of Asian instant noodles and snacks.

Since I eat instant noodles as a soup every day I've become quite adept of getting the best out of any one packet.

So I make my own by orchestrating a medley of ingredients. You'd be surprized how inexpensive this combination is.

I always add garlic and ginger to the soup base and sliced onion or spring onion. Then I throw in some fresh green vegetable and maybe some chilli and quickly par boil the soup before adding some bean sprouts.

While I always prepare the noodles separate from the soup and soup base (as you would pasta), yesterday we discovered a range of Phở (soup) instant noodles which are excellent -- MAMA brand.

Phở is the quintessential noodle soup and in many suburbs across Australia -- occupied by Vietnamese migrants -- many restaurants will be dedicated to this one menu item. But if you don't live in Darra (Qld), or Springvale (Vic) or Cabramatta (NSW) -- you have to make do.

Enjoying Phở also requires a ritual in the way you choose to add fresh bean sprouts, basil, chili pieces, Vietnamese mint, lemon juice or Coriander leaves to your bowl.

You may find yourself eating under posters that call for the overthrow of the Vietnamese government -- but that's becoming less common in the new era of Đổi mới --"renovation".

I first got into Phở as a product of the post bellum period in Vietnam -- as the wave of boat people settled Australia one restaurant at a time. And if I had my druthers I would be living among them just so that I could walk out my door each day and eat Phở for breakfast or lunch as I'd prefer.

I prefer the ambiance of a Phở restaurant to a coffee shop any day. I like the laminated tables, the containers of cutlery , condiments and chopsticks on each table top, the absolute lack of pretension and the focus you have to invest into the protocols of consuming the soup and its passengers.

For me that's what a food evolution would be like: Phở restaurants for all at government subsidised prices! (Maybe with a poster of Ho Chi Minh over the counter).
Here's some trivia: did you know that Ho Chi Minh -- then known known as Nguyen Tat Thanh in 1914 -- worked for the famous French Chef Auguste Escoffie in Paris. Escoffie was the guy who invented Melba toast. Some reports I've read had Thanh working as Escoffie's saucier but I think that's unlikely.

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