Serves 4

In the Mekong region of South-east Asia around the river that flows through China, along the border of Burma and Laos and into Thailand, the early morning markets stalls are literally steaming, with women cooking up soups and noodles for shoppers and workers. Morning market noodles can consist of pretty much whatever is available in the market, but start with a base of fragrant broth to which is added anything that takes the cook's fancy. If you've got a table heater at home you can construct your own noodle soup at the dinner table, having the broth and a selection of greens, chicken, spring onions and so on to add to it.

for the broth

8 chicken thighs, skinned
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
10 black peppercorns or Sichuan peppercorns
A small piece of root ginger, scraped and roughly chopped
2 lime leaves

for the soup

Thai fish sauce or salt to season
500g thin dried rice noodles or rice vermicelli, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes or 1kg fresh rice noodles
100g bean sprouts
250g small Chinese greens like pak choi or choi sum, trimmed and cut into 5-6cm pieces
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced on the angle
2tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves
50g unsalted peanuts, lightly roasted in the oven and chopped

to serve (optional condiments)

Black rice vinegar
Soy sauce
Roasted sesame oil
Chilli sauce
Fish sauce
Lime wedges

To make the broth put the chicken thighs in a large saucepan with the rest of the ingredients for the broth and cover with about 3 litres of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the chicken thighs and transfer them to a plate to cool. Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean pan.

Simmer the stock until it is reduced by about one third and you are happy with the flavour. Season with a couple of tablespoons of Thai fish sauce or a little salt if you prefer.

Remove the bones from the chicken, shred the meat into chunky-sized pieces and add to the broth.

Add the noodles, bean sprouts, Chinese greens, spring onions and coriander to the broth and simmer for 3-4 minutes with a lid on.

Serve in individual bowls or one large one, scattered with the peanuts. Leave the lime wedges and a selection of condiments on the table for guests to help themselves.