The food safety-minded among us should throw away leftovers after just three to four days.
But Wattana Panich in Bangkok cooks by a different set of rules.
“For 45 years, the broth of our soup has never been thrown away after a day’s cooking,” says Nattapong Kaweenuntawong, who tends his beef noodle soup, called neua tune, with his mother and wife, the site Great Big Story reports.
“The broth has been preserved and cooked for 45 years,” he says.
Kaweenuntawong adds that the 45-year-old broth has “a unique flavor and aroma” thanks to his unconventional cooking method. “We have kept the broth overnight, and then used it to cook the next day’s soup,” he says.
Their specialty includes stewed beef, raw sliced beef, meatballs, tripe or other internal organs and rice noodles.
But it’s the beefy broth base that’s “most important,” says Kaweenuntawong.
The concept of a never-ending soup is certainly not novel. “Perpetual stew,” also called “hunter’s pot,” refers to the practice of keeping a pot of soup slowly simmering at all times, wherein ingredients, such as meats, vegetables and liquids are replenished — but never tossed — as the pot gets low.
But is it safe? Historically, sure. Generally the pots are almost fully depleted by the end of a cycle, so only some broth base will be left to start another batch. This leftover soup then helps flavor the next pot.
A New York Times article from 1981 talks about a French beef stew which had then lasted 21 years: Writer Arthur Prager recommended refrigerating the soup overnight if unfinished, then skimming off the fat off the top — where bacteria tends to build up — and simmering again for at least 20 minutes before serving again. While leftover veggies and meat are discarded after two rounds of reheating, the broth, they say, “will never spoil.”
In the article, Prager also refers to a “pot-au-feu” in Normandy which had reportedly been burning for 300 years, and another one in Perpignan that began in the 1400s, but didn’t survive World War II.
Indeed, Wattana Panich may not even be the oldest soup on Earth, but Kaweenuntawong hopes they’ll come close.
“I am the third generation, and we have three children,” he says. “I hope there will be the fourth generation to run the business.”
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