I’ve become the kind of person (a grandmother, perhaps; you can say it) who always implores you to stay for dinner. But it’s less benevolent than it sounds. I mean, yes, absolutely I’d love your company and not just because it will provide a welcome break from our usual dinner conversations of “Please take a bite. Of anything.” “No, I promise, that’s not a parsley fleck.” Or “But you liked roasted carrots last week!” And not just because I’ve found it takes 47 group texts to make dinner plans but if I say “just swing by at 6,” the answer is far more often a simple “Yes!” Not just because it’s part of my ongoing ulterior agenda to make entertaining less fussy — nobody is imagining you’d bring out a tray of hor d’oeuvres on a Tuesday night, thus nobody has to be disappointed that that will literally never happen — and therefore a more frequent thing in our lives. And not just because once you’re already making dinner, accounting for a serving or two extra is barely a hurdle.
Or, it’s not exclusively for these reasons. Mostly, I find it makes weeknight cooking more fun. I usually use it as an excuse to try something new that is maybe a step more effort than I’d usually put in, not entirely sure my family will receive it with the standing ovation and outpouring of gratitude that I believe each and every one of my cooking efforts are owed. (I’m kidding. Probably.)
It’s one of these evenings a couple years ago that led me to this soup. It seemed to have an element for everyone. Meatballs go over well with both kids and adults, keep well (when dinner isn’t going to start on time), and warm up well when there are leftovers. The broth is rich and quick; no bag of food scraps or chicken bones required. We served it with rice on the side, so that people who wanted to could add as much as they wanted (ahem, kids) and people who were not eating rice could skip it and still have a great soup. I couldn’t find lemongrass that day and added some spinach instead, but ended up keeping the spinach in in later rounds. We served it with lightly pickled red chiles, fresh mint and cilantro, and a lot of lime on the side and it was so good, I’ve made it many times since.
Read more »