Instant Comfort: A Bowl of Embellished Noodle Soup

The weather here in Manila has been particularly ornery of late. One moment, it’s sunny and blisteringly hot; the next, it’s cold and the rain outside falls in torrents. Given the schizoid nature of the weather, it’s not surprising that most people have been having a hard time recovering from the flu and others – myself included, alas! 😦 – have been catching dreadful colds. Plus, the fluctuating temperatures tend to cause some considerable lowering of one’s spirits, leading to a general feeling of malaise.

Times like these call for serious comfort foods.

I agree with what the iconic local film director Peque Gallaga said in his essay Samo-samo in the Kitchen:

Food wasn’t going to solve the problem or make it go away, but it certainly was going to help put me in a frame of mind to see things with a little more philosophy and courage.

Direk Peque’s idea of comfort food involves a massive plate of old-school bacon and sunny-side up eggs with garlic fried rice. While I can certainly identify with how such cholesterol-laden goodness can be beneficial to one’s psyche, I tend to veer away from anything fried whenever I’m ill. Indeed, my go-to meal in times of illness and/or personal crisis involves boiling – specifically: boiling up a packet of instant noodles.

The idea is to actually make something special out of something as mundane as a packet of instant noodles. In my case, I boiled up the contents of a packet of Nong Shim Neoguri Udon (the mild sort; much as my nasal passages were stopped up, I doubted if my throat could stand anything more incendiary!), chopped up some leftover Korean-style barbecued chicken, and threw in a handful of frozen mixed vegetables. Most people usually whisk an egg into their pots of instant noodle soup, but I prefer to poach the egg whole till the whites are cooked just right and the yolk is still semi-molten within. Mm-hmm… Samo-samo ala southern suburbia.

Combined with the al dente noodles, the sweetish chicken, the veg, and the sub-molten egg, the spicy broth gives me a feeling of well-being and comfort. I swear: whenever I eat this, things start to look much better – not matter how bleak they may seem.

Incidentally… Direk Peque’s essay is one of the interesting food-related mini-memoirs compiled in the 2003 anthology Comfort Food edited by Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio and published by Anvil. If you’re the sort who grew up with foodies like I did, this book is for you,