When I first stumbled across this recipe on Epicurious, I wasn't sure how authentic it sounded and if the flavours would actually work that well. After having lived in Vietnam for almost two years, I am a huge fan of Vietnamese cuisine but dismiss most recipes as merely a bastardisation of the original or having nothing more than a passing nod to pan-Asian flavours. I was incredibly impressed with how this came out though, as was Mark. He got white rice noodles and cashew nuts in his to bulk it out a bit and we both thought the flavours were fantastic. I didn't add any bean sprouts but would definitely do that next time as I think it would work well.
Vietnamese Chicken and Pineapple Soup
2 red chilis
2 cloves of garlic
3 chopped tomatoes
Handful of dried shiitake mushrooms, re-soaked and finely sliced
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 stalk lemongrass
Handful chopped fresh mint
Handful chopped fresh coriander
Cut the top and shave the sides off the pineapple. The eyes should still be left on. Next, trim the eyes off in slices, leaving the main part of the pineapple without any eyes or skin left on. Place the shaved sides with the eyes on in a hand blender with plenty of water. Puree this mixture and set aside. Fry the chopped garlic and chili in a saucepan with a splash of olive oil. Add the fish sauce and boil for two minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. This will stink to high heaven but the flavour in the soup is more subtle. Add the chopped sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, beansprouts (if using) and a handful of cubes of the remaining pineapple flesh. Fry for a couple of minutes before placing a fine sieve over the saucepan and pushing the pineapple puree mixture through the sieve directly into the pan. Push hard on the rough bits and discard. Add a little more water if needed. Simmer for ten minutes or so with a stick of crushed lemongrass to add flavour. Just before serving, add the chopped fresh herbs and a grind of black pepper. I cooked my chicken separately and just sprinkled the shredded pieces directly on top. The rice noodles went into the pan just after the pineapple puree and I gave them a good 6 minutes to cook. A sprinkle of cashew nuts on top bring a nice extra flavour in.
I think the original recipe probably explains this better than I have but it is really worth an experiment, especially for us since we picked up a super cheap pineapple in the market and had chicken left over in the fridge.