With 29 days remaining before we head off to Asia (OMG), I've decided it's time to learn Vietnamese. Yes, I'm serious. I don't expect to be an expert before we arrive, or ever, but I do think it's smart (and respectful) to learn at least SOME of the language of a country in which you plan to spend an extended amount of time. I'm also extremely fond of being able to communicate when I want to — especially if I'm hungry or need to use the bathroom! TMI? Sorry.
I've been using the app Duolingo for a few years now to learn French, and REALLY love their system, but unfortunately couldn't find a similar method for Vietnamese. A friend said she'd recently seen Vietnamese language CDs at the Bozeman library, so I scurried over to check that out. I checked out two different "level one" sets, and promptly started listening to them last week. Let me tell you what I've learned: Absolutely nothing. It's HARD!
I've always felt fairly comfortable learning new languages, like they come to me quickly and I understand their underlying structures, but that's because they're all romance languages... I've never learned an Asian language (with the exception of Japanese in 4th and 5th grade, of which I only remember how to count to ten). After listening to the first lesson on the Vietnamese disc, which teaches "excuse me" "do you speak English" and "I understand English," I couldn't recall any of those three phrases off the top of my head. I was feeling like a real dummy. So, I listened to it again.
THANKFULLY the second time around was much better, but still felt totally foreign to me! It really does make me feel a bit like a dummy to not pick it up very quickly! I might need to listen to the first lesson twenty times before I remember everything! I find myself distracted in yoga (when I should be NOT thinking about anything) trying to recall phrases and intonations that are clearly still uncomfortable for my brain.
I think what I've really learned, apart from the fact that Vietnamese is NOT related to any romance language I've ever learned, is that I'm a very visual person. The audio is great for learning to pronounce words correctly, but I really like to see how words are spelled, and then I can recall them easier by actually picturing the word. I'm not sure why it's taken my 26 years to learn that I'm a visual learner, but I'm starting to believe I am! Perhaps I'll start listening to the discs while looking at translations of the phrases — I really think that will help. I have to at least learn more than "excuse me" because what good is that if I have nothing to follow up with? I'm determined to learn SOMETHING of value.
Shall I finally tell you about this soup? It's SO easy — especially if you already have cooked chicken. You can pick up a roasted chicken at the store and pick off the meat to speed things along here. Derek's mom brought this recipe when she visited last month and we instantly knew it was a hit. I've never cooked soup where you put corn tortillas IN THE SOUP to disintegrate and thicken the soup! It's amazing! I changed a few things around for our tastes — most notably the crispy tortilla strips on top. You could just throw some tortilla chips on there, if you want, but I LOVE the homemade strips. Careful not to eat them all before you serve the soup!Print
- 10 (6-inch) corn tortillas, divided
- 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
- 3 ½ cups cooked chicken (either from a whole roasted chicken or about 3 cooked breasts), shredded
- ½ cup heavy cream
- salt & pepper
- shredded cheddar cheese and diced avocado, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Cut half of the tortillas into thin strips, about ¼" wide. Cut the other half into small (½" square) pieces, and set aside.
- Toss the tortilla strips with 2 tablespoon olive oil, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and cook until brown and crisp — about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoon olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft.
- Add the spices, stir well, and cook for another 3 minutes before adding the chicken stock, tomatoes (and their juices), and remaining uncooked tortillas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, covered. Stir occasionally, until the soup has thickened and the tortillas have dissolved. Add the shredded chicken and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with shredded cheese, crispy tortilla strips, and diced avocado.