Karl’s Lemongrass Clear Soup

I had brought some lemongrass, because I was thinking about braising the lamb for my Vietnamese summer rolls in a flavorful broth.  I changed my mind to a quick grill for the lamb, but then I was left with the lemongrass. I decided that I what I needed was a soup to go with dinner.

Karl's Lemongrass Clear Soup

Karl’s Lemongrass Clear Soup

When I researched Vietnamese soups I found a lot of meal-soups, heavy on the meat, coconut milk and noodles. One strange thing I noticed is that many of the “vegetarian” soups started with “take beef bones (pork bones, chicken carcass) and make your broth.”

What I had in mind was something much more like a flavorful Japanese clear broth, with just a few distinct vegetable items floating in it. It was time to strike out on my own and invent something new. The clear soup I created may not be Vietnamese, but it will be mine.

One reason I wanted to make this soup was for the rice vermicelli for my summer rolls. In times past, I would soften these noodles with just warm water.  This produces noodles which are very bland.   I was planning to boost their flavor by softening them in the soup broth before rolling them up.

Note: Jan says this is not a soup, it is tea. Still it was good.

Karl’s Lemongrass Clear Soup


1 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
2 stalk lemongrass, peeled and chopped, separate uses
1 inch fresh ginger, sliced thin
1 star anise
1-2 Tbs. fish sauce
1-2 Tbs. soy sauce
4 cups water (6 cups if using to soften vermicelli)
9-12 Thai basil leaves
9 -12 bean sprouts
1 green onion, white part only


1. Toast the cumin in the dry pot for 30 seconds.

2. Add 4 cups of water and the lemongrass, ginger, and star anise. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

3. Strain out and discard the solids and add the fish and soy sauce.

Note: If you are going to use this broth to soften the rice vermicelli for the summer rolls, add 2 cups of hot water and do so now.

5. Bring the broth back to heat and serve the soup into individual bowls. Add 3 Thai basil leaves, 3 bean sprouts and one long diagonal slice of the white part of the green onion to each bowl.

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