Anthony Bourdain was my hero.
Irreverent, whip smart, a rebel with a heart of gold, he inspired me to write, to love food writing culture and stay curious about the people and places that create the things we love to eat. He was authentic within himself, and carried just enough ‘tortured artist’ energy to be utterly fascinating. Today has been a sad day, one of tears and grief and exhaustion, one of empathy for his family and closest friends, one of frustration and anger that the world can become so small and dark for people that they can only see one way out. My heart feels broken and the existentialist in me wonders how, if someone as seemingly strong and resilient as he was, can give in and give up, what hope do the rest of us have? His candid writing on addiction and mental health was inspiring and real, hard to read at times because it was so raw, but he had made it through, he’d lived to tell the tale. His stories helped me, and I’m sure countless other people stay in the fight and push through to see another day. To call his suicide tragic is not enough. It is profoundly sad and numbingly surreal. I want to turn on Netflix, watch his shows, hear his voice, be a part of the wisdom and poetry that he gave us, but it’s too soon. I had no appetite today, but I cooked. I cooked and cried because what else can you do when your kitchen hero has died? He always talked about the excitement and anticipation when flying into southeast Asia, because it meant he was that much closer to the perfect bowl of broth and noodles. It didn’t seem to matter which country or which cuisine because they all do it so well. He described hunting out local back alley stalls for huge bowls of hot, spicy, long simmered broth and fresh noodles consumed immediately, sitting on a crate or rickety lawn chair surrounded by the sounds and smells of wherever he was. There was so much comfort described in those noodles; a bowl of memories and new sensations all at once. It spoke to his sense of adventure which he so brazenly shared, and his sense of nostalgia, which he metered out more bittersweetly, cards closer to his chest. I needed that kind of comfort today, so I put together the best bowl of hot, spicy, brothy noodles that I could. I don’t know what to call them, so I have left the recipe unnamed. I managed half the bowl, too sad and tired to finish but it felt good to do something, create some sort of tribute, some sort of thank you to a man that was so real, so fallible, so complex that he felt like both hero and friend. He made me believe that there is value in the relationship between cooking and storytelling, that what we learn about a person as we sit across the table from them are things we could otherwise never learn. I am eternally grateful for his words. May he finally have peace.
“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
– Anthony Bourdain
For the Chicken
Cut 2 chicken breasts into bite size pieces and marinate in the following mixture for 1-2 hours:
1/2 C soy
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
For the Broth
3 inches of fresh ginger root, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, split
2 Tbsp white miso paste
2 Tbsp chili sauce (sriracha works well here)
1 lime, cut in half
1 carrot sliced thinly
2 stalks celery sliced thinly
5 scallions, whites and pale green parts only (reserve the dark green for garnish)
2 Tbsp peanut or olive oil
1 Cup canned coconut milk
1 Litre chicken stock
1/4 Cup natural peanut butter (no sugar added)
chopped scallions, cilantro and parsley
Marinate the chicken and set aside.
Assemble the broth. To do so, place a large pot over medium heat. Add the oil, fresh ginger root, garlic, white miso paste, chili sauce, lime, carrot, celery and scallions. Fry the ingredients until they are fragrant but not scorching, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, coconut milk and peanut butter. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper. Bring to a boil and turn down to minimum. Simmer gently for an hour with a lid slightly ajar so as not to reduce it too far.
Once the broth is simmered, cook the chicken and marinade in a small amount of oil.
Bring the broth back to the boil. Add chow mein style (wheat) noodles or rice vermicelli noodles to the broth. Go as light or as heavy on the noodles as you like, but consider it four portions. Cook the noodles per package directions.
Ladle broth and noodles into 4 individual serving bowls. Top with chicken and garnish with scallions, herbs and peanuts.