Aunt Rachel's Infinitely Adaptable Asian Chicken Soup
Updated: Aug 17, 2019
My aunt Rachel, who is an excellent cook, recently shared this recipe (and many other great ones) with me. It has quickly become a family favorite.
Okay, infinite adaptations might be an exaggeration. But I consulted my uncle Jason who is an engineer, and with Aunt Rachel's list of adaptations (below), a conservative estimate would give 32,767 ways you can customize this soup. For those of you who aren't familiar with my math skills, you should be very impressed with me right now; I had to use, like, Pascal's triangle.
And if thirty two thousand possible dinners isn't enough excitement for you (it is for me), as a byproduct of making your own quick-chicken broth, you are also left with beautiful poached chicken breasts, which you can use to add protein to a number of dishes throughout the week: in wraps, sandwiches, or salads. So if you ask me, the limit does not exist. This is really the ultimate meal-prep recipe.
Makes around 6 cups (3 good servings) of soup. The soup is naturally gluten-free and dairy free but adding soy sauce or wheat noodles can change affect its gluten-free status.
Ingredients for the broth base:
3 bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
1-2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt, to taste
--PREPARE THE OTHER INGREDIENTS AFTER STEP 1 IN METHOD SECTION BELOW--
1 hand-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced look for shiny skin for best freshness
8-10 cloves garlic, left whole, or crushed for stronger flavor
2-3 carrots, peeled and halved while she's at it, Aunt Rachel peel and cuts extra carrots to put in the fridge as ready-to-go snack for later
1 onion, peeled and quartered
5-10 whole peppercorns (take them out of your pepper grinder)
Suggested but optional additions to the broth base:
1 small sweet potato, peeled and quartered
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs (for extra heartiness)
1-2 stocks celery, washed and trimmed
Place the chicken breasts (and thighs if you are using) in a large pot and add enough water to cover the tops of all of them, but not so much extra water that the broth will be weak. Add the salt and set over medium high heat as you prep the vegetables.
Prep the vegetables as described in the ingredients list, and add them one-by-one to the pot with the chicken, as you prepare them. When the ginger, garlic, carrots, onion, and peppercorns are in the pot, bring to a boil. If you're using sweet potato or celery, add it here.
Once at a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover with the lid slightly propped open to allow some steam to escape. Simmer on low 30-40 minutes while you relax, clean up, and prep mix-ins if enjoying immediately.
After 30 minutes or so, taste the broth for depth of flavor. It will be more pale than the average chicken noodle soup, but should have a lot of flavor. Taste also for salt, but keep in mind that if you add soy sauce or miso paste to the broth, those ingredients bring their own salt.
Remove the chicken and set aside, and strain the soup into a bowl to remove the cooking vegetables.
With what you don't use immediately: let cool slightly before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Suggested customizations to mix and match in finished soup:
1 portion plain ramen, udon, or other asian noodles, cooked to package instructions
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce into the broth
Uncle David's way: a squeeze of sriracha, hoisin, fresh lime, and basil (reminds him of phở)
Quickly sautéed shittake mushrooms (stems removed), bok choy, sliced snow peas, and onion in sesame or chili oil with a splash of soy sauce and mirin
Fresh sliced carrots, bok choy and scallions
Thinly sliced jalapeños or fresh chili
Prepared dumplings (cooked package instructions)
Shichimi togarashi seasoning
Dried seaweed snacks
Thinly sliced napa cabbage and asian hot sauce
1-2 tablespoons miso paste, to taste
Comments on serving and mix-ins:
Because this soup starts with a universal east-Asian flavor profile, you can take it in many different directions depending on what you add. You can keep the broth base plain and add customizations by the serving, to order.
My favorite way reminds me of a rich chinese-style wonton soup: adding a dash of soy sauce and sliced scallions. You can't go wrong with a squeeze of Asian hot sauce in there, either.
Dissolving in 1-2 tablespoons of miso paste makes it taste like it came from your favorite Japanese spot. It's easier to mix in the paste when you simmer the stock in a small sauce pan on the stove.
To take a Vietnamese-inspired route, My Uncle David likes seasoning it with the usual phở accoutrements.
Aunt Rachel prefers the sautéed vegetables.
No matter what you do, play around with herbs at seasonings and enjoy!
Jeremy Scheck is the founder and editor-in-chief of Collegetown Kitchen and After School Bakery. He is a student at Cornell University in the class of 2022 studying Spanish, Italian, and nutrition. Aproveche, buon appetito and bon appétit!