Negotiable Soup Noodles
by Susu & MaceVindaloo
Master Obi-wan had told him that intelligence and research concerning a mission would not only help them gain insight, but would help them understand the culture and practices of the planets they visit. That meant everything from knowing how to greet the people a bow, a curtsy, a handshake, a twitch of the head to anticipating what they might serve. It was general Temple policy not to refuse anything served to the Jedi, especially as guests on a mission.
On Utapau, two races co-existed peacefully the "Longs" the Pau'ans, who were not only tall and slim, but also lived for many, many years and moved slowly; and the "Shorts" the Utai, who were short and squat, and lived bustling but short lives. They lived in the water-rich sinkholes of their planet, to avoid the fast, scouring winds on the dry, bare surface rock. They were deprived of light and thus shared the same pallid skin and preference for uncooked meats and other foods.
Long before the Separatists came to find sanctuary on Utapau, the two Jedi had come to speak with the politically neutral planet to ask them to join the Republic. At a dinner in their honor, Obi-wan and Anakin sat on adjacent tables, with the tall Pau'an officials between them. Thus the two Jedi could not see each other.
Anakin had not had time to investigate all the customs of Utapau, but he was hungry and he remembered his master's warning that as the Utai and Pau'ans did not cook their food, to be ready for anything served to him. But he never expected a bowl of worms in what looked to be a clear broth ... live worms!
The young padawan screwed up his eyes and expelled his breath ... he lifted up the bowl to his lips and swallowed all the contents at once, without tasting them, and without even chewing them! He finally came up for air and tried not to notice the slithering feeling in his gullet ... but then he noticed how quiet the banquet hall had become ...
It turned out that the worms were considered sacred, and putting them in front of a guest indicated their importance. It was considered an honor to have the rare things which existed only at the bottom of the Utapau sinkholes in the deepest grottos before you, under water. A guest was meant to contemplate the worms and their movements ... but Anakin had seen fit to eat them how barbaric! What an insult!
Fortunately, Obi-wan had his wits about him and he stepped in to apologize, explaining that the young padawan was from a desert planet which honored water, and he was at an age when humans grew quickly and thus he was always hungry. This was mostly true; Obi-wan also explained that having grown up poor, Anakin could eat anything, and he did not mean any offense.
The Pau'ans seemed to accept this explanation but were still upset about the loss of several holy worms. Obi-wan then admitted that they did have a favorite dish that resembled the worms; perhaps he and Anakin could make it for the Utai and the Pau'ans, so that they might understand Anakin's enthusiasm?
Fortunately, the offer was accepted. Anakin found himself doing kitchen scullion duty, chopping, steaming, boiling under the direction of his patient but irate master ... but their hosts found the dish delicious, even though the components were cooked rather than raw. And indeed, the noodles at the bottom of the bowl did resemble their sacred worms. They goodnaturedly told Anakin if the worms tasted as good as the noodles in soup, they'd be sure to eat them, too!
And thus was avoided a potential diplomatic disaster. It solidified Obi-wan's reputation as a negotiator, and Anakin's desire to stay as far from politics as possible!
Pull the leaves off the baby bok choy and clean them in cold water. Boil a large pot of water and cook the leaves in it this will only take a minute or so. Using a spider or tongs, lift the cooked but still firm leaves into a bowl of cold water. Drain when cooled. In the same water, cook the dumplings till cooked through (follow package directions). Remove them from the water and set aside in a bowl with some of the hot water poured over them. Finally, cook the noodles in the water. If you are using fresh noodles, watch them carefully, since they cook very fast. Drain the noodles well.
To serve, put out four large bowls and divide up the broth, then place a quarter of the noodles in each bowl. Top with a quarter of the bok choy, dumplings, and pork.
Serve with chopsticks it's easier to eat the noodles that way, but if you're inept with this utensil, serve with both a spoon and a fork per diner.
Serves 4, as a full dinner.
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