Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Of Love and Noodle Soup

Chris and I got married a little over three years ago. We went to three different places for our honeymoon tour of 2006. The weekend after the wedding, we decided to go to Vermont for some much needed peace and time to ourselves. We stayed for three days in the southern town of Putney which is very close to another little town, Brattleboro. The New Hampshire state line is right next to it.

The hosts of our bed and breakfast told us that we should definitely check out Brattleboro and I'm so glad we did! It was chock full of stuff to see and do. Thrift shops, a movie theatre, a used CD store and lots of places to eat. That may not sound exciting to some people but I was set! We wandered into an Asian restaurant for dinner one night. I had no idea that this particular meal would stick with me for years to come!
I don't remember what Chris ordered but I'll never forget what I had. It was chilly outside so I went with the noodle soup bowl. I had several choices for additional ingredients at 75 cents each: egg, tofu, spinach or kimchi. I went with an egg and some tofu. They brought me back a huge, steaming bowl of noodles swimming in a light amber broth that was speckled with oil. The rich scent of sesame made my mouth water. I'd had very little experience with sesame oil before. I can recall ruining at least one dish by adding too much of it. The stoutness is definitely an acquired taste. That soup showed me what could be accomplished if one knew how to use it the right way. It also lit a torch for Korean food that still burns bright in my belly. Nowadays, I rarely seem to be able to get enough of that bold sesame embrace on my tongue and within my nostrils. It's one of my absolute favorite flavors.

I was so infatuated with this soup that we went back for lunch the day we left Vermont to come home. I can't count how many times over the past few years that my mind has wandered back to that steamy bowl of Heaven. During our recent trip to New England a week and a half ago, I pushed for a detour through Brattleboro on the way back home and my husband was gracious enough to indulge me. We were rewarded by an absolutely gorgeous drive through the state of New Hampshire that was draped with fabulous fall foliage. We listened to classical music and did our best to take in as much as possible.

When we got to Brattleboro, the sentimental history of that spot overtook me. I was in a fantastic mood as memories from our honeymoon played out during our walk through the downtown area. We crossed the familiar threshold of Shin La and I smiled. It looked just as I'd remembered it. It doesn't really have the typical ambiance of an Asian restaurant. It almost looks like a pub. We sat down, looked at the menu and my eyes immediately fell on my heart's desire. I was tempted to add kimchi along with my tofu and egg but I wanted to say true to the original. I have a Polaroid from three years ago of me holding a bowl of this soup but you'll have to settle for the picture I took from a week and a half ago.
It's difficult to say how it feels to have actually experienced it again. It actually managed to live up to the memories which was somewhat of a relief. It would have been sad to have my fantasies dashed by mediocre soup! I feel confident that I could probably recreate it at home now. I don't know it if will be the same but I suppose it better to try than to have to wait for several more years to have it again.

Shin La
57 Main Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301

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