JUST A STORY
A friend suggested we have a noodle soup party, and before he could finish his sentence, I was already on board.
I wasn't sure, however, of what to expect from this experience. The rough outline of an idea was to bring different noodles and broths, and let people build bowls for themselves. The group email request was for people to bring vegetable stock, chicken stock, noodles, bean sprouts, cilantro/koriander, chopsticks and more. There was also going to be lumpia rolling for anyone interested.
I replied to say I'd be happy to bring noodles and stock, but should I make Thai boat noodle soup broth? Is that OK to add to the mix? My request was enthusiastically approved, and on the day of the party, I made my favorite boat noodle soup recipe from Andy Ricker's Pok Pok.
One of the hardest parts of cooking Asian food in small-town Bavaria is the lack of resources. I didn't include at least 5 of the ingredients the original recipes calls for because I can't get them easily. Luckily, there is a fresh market that brings in fresh cilantro and bean sprouts all year long, and there is also a wholesale grocery that sells some of the necessary sauces and noodles. (The grocer also sells Italian and Mexican ingredients.)
The boat noodle soup was a hit! Though to be fair, the recipe is solid and has been a favorite for many dinner guests of my own. My fear was that the flavor would be too bold, but then I remembered that this was a group of people who agreed to attend a noodle soup party.
IF YOU CAN'T GO TO THE NOODLES, BRING THE NOODLES TO YOU
The logistics of throwing a noodle soup party can seem daunting, but the real issue is space. We found it easiest to put the noodles in the bowls, then let people dress them as they wish. As long as you have room to lay out the broths and the toppings (bean sprouts, cilantro, fried garlic, chili powder, limes...), people are happy to build their own bowls.
Some guests that came though weren't familiar with noodle soups at all. Let them experiment with a little bit of guidance - it's all for fun!