Happy New Year, pals! Whoo! Last year did fly by, didn’t it? No, I’m kidding of course, it didn’t fly by, it was grim and interminable and everyone hated it, but at least we’re spinning away from the winter solstice. January 2021 is now upon us, and we can fall back on tried and tested aphorisms such as “it’s darkest before the dawn” and “soup is the best thing to get you through January”. (Sometimes we change that to “whisky is the best way to get through Tuesday” but a lot of you are doing dry January and we don’t want to put you off your game.)
Soup is so essential to maintaining our sanity through the short, cold winter days that we always cook up a big batch of stock from the roast turkeys and rotisserie chickens that we’ve made since November, and then freeze it in large ice cube trays or plastic containers, so we have a store of rich, versatile broth for any soup recipe we need. Often, too, we’ll make a large pot of soup from the broth, and then freeze that so it’ll last several weeks. We’ve already blogged some of our favorites: a thick Nettle (or Spinach) and Potato soup, a Creamy Mushroom Soup with Black Rice, which quickly became a favorite, a classic Tomato Soup (with cheesy toasts that will blow your mind) and a Chicken and Potato Chowder (which we made a batch of last month and thawed this week). There’s a reason why “Chicken Soup for the Soul” is a trademark, and there’s a reason why chicken soup works so well to raise the spirits. We’d like to introduce you to our new favorite variation on the theme: Gingery Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup with Crispy Garlic.
There are a lot of things we love about this soup but probably highest on the list is just how easy it is to make. Crisp up the garlic for the garnish, sauté some aromatics, poach the chicken in the broth and that’s pretty much it. On a cold winter night after a long hard day, this will be a treat for your tastebuds.
Start by cooking your rice noodles according to the package directions. We usually use vermicelli, which take only a few minutes in boiling water. Once the noodles are ready, rinse them in warm water to remove any excess starch and set them aside.
You might be tempted to skip the crispy garlic topping but it’s worth the extra couple of minutes it takes. That bit of garlicky crunch on top of the hot broth is just so good. The trick to getting perfectly sweet, golden brown garlic chips (instead of bitter, coal black ones) is adding the oil and garlic to a cold pot. This gives the garlic a chance to bloom as the oil heats, slowing the browning process up a little. By the time the garlic is sizzling, it will just need a minute or two to turn golden. Keep the temperature on the low side and move the garlic around to keep it from scorching. Once it turns light brown, use a slotted spoon to remove it to a plate and set it aside. Leave as much garlic oil in the pot as you can.
Add a little more oil, turn the heat up to medium and add in the sliced ginger and shallots. We love shallots for their mild, sweet flavor but if you don’t have them you could just as easily use the same amount of thinly sliced onions or leeks. Once the shallots are soft and beginning to turn golden, add the hoisin sauce and let it sizzle in the pot for just a minute to allow the flavors to bloom.
A quick aside about hoisin sauce: what is it exactly? Although hoisin is Chinese for “seafood”, the name most likely comes from the fact that the sauce is a common accompaniment for seafood. It actually doesn’t contain seafood or any meat at all. Often used as a glaze or dipping sauce for grilled meat, hoisin sauce is thick, dark and fragrant, balancing the saltiness from fermented black beans with sweetness and tang. Many brands of hoisin will be vegan and gluten free, but check the label of your brand to confirm if this is important to you. Refer to our Asian Pantry Basics page for more information.
Once the hoisin has sizzled, stir in the broth or water and turn the heat up to bring it up to a boil. Turn the heat down to maintain a bare simmer and add in the scallions whites and chicken pieces. You could use thighs (our choice, almost always), or breasts, bone-in or boneless, it really is up to you. If you have bone-in pieces but want to keep things lean, remove the chicken skin before poaching. You could also remove it after it’s cooked and if there’s too much fat on top (a little is tasty) you can remove any excess with a spoon.
Adjust the heat as needed to keep the broth at a simmer. You don’t want to boil the chicken or it can become tough. Let the chicken gently poach until it’s fully cooked through, the thickest part of the chicken should register about 160°F on an instant read thermometer. Boneless breasts will cook fastest, but also be most at risk of overcooking. Begin checking them after about 10 minutes. Small boneless thighs will also cook in about that time. Large, bone-in thighs may take up to 25 minutes, depending on their size. A benefit of poaching at a relatively low temperature is that it’s much more forgiving than a high-temperature sear, so a few minutes longer in the broth isn’t going to make or break your dinner.
Once the chicken is cooked through, use tongs to transfer it to a plate and use two forks to shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones, if there are any. You can use a spoon to remove any excess fat on top of the broth if there is any. Return the chicken to the pot, stir in the sesame oil and scallion greens. Taste the broth and add any salt or soy sauce if you think it needs it. We used homemade low sodium broth and added about a teaspoon of kosher salt and a tablespoon of light (not low sodium) soy sauce. If the soup has cooled, turn the heat back on to medium and bring it back to a simmer before serving.
Divide the noodles into four soup bowls and spoon the hot broth and chicken over the top which will warm the noodles back up. Top each serving of chicken and rice noodle soup with some crispy garlic chips and torn cilantro leaves. Serve it with lime wedges for squeezing, and chili-garlic paste (or our newest obsession, Chili Crisp) on the side for your spice fiends.
Gingery Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup with Crispy Garlic
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil divided
- 5 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 3 large shallots peeled and thinly sliced
- 3- inch piece ginger peeled and thinly sliced into planks
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 quarts low sodium chicken stock or water
- 2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts boneless or bone-in, skin removed, if desired
- 4 scallions thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 8 ounces rice noodles recommended: vermicelli
- Kosher salt and soy sauce to taste
- 1 lightly packed cup fresh cilantro torn
- 1 lime quartered, for squeezing
- Chili-garlic paste or chili crisp
- Cook your rice noodles according to the package directions. Rinse them with warm water and set them aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and the garlic to a large pot and turn the heat on medium-low. Keep moving the garlic around as it starts to sizzle, turning it often until it turns light golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes once the oil is hot. Remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
- Turn the heat to medium, add the last tablespoon of oil to the pot and add the shallots and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots are soft and lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add the hoisin and cook it for about 1 minute. Add the stock or water and bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer, add the chicken pieces and scallion whites and cook until chicken is cooked through and tender. The thickest part of the chicken should register about 160°F on an instant read thermometer. Boneless breasts may take about 10 to 15 minutes, large bone-in thighs may need 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, remove the chicken to a plate and use two forks to shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones if needed. If there is a layer of fat on top of the broth, you can remove it with a spoon, if desired. Remove and discard the ginger, return the shredded chicken to the pot and stir in the sesame oil and scallion greens. Taste the broth and season it with salt and/or soy sauce, if desired (the amount will depend on the saltiness of the broth used). If the soup has cooled, heat it on medium until it returns to a simmer before serving.
- To serve, divide the noodles into four soup bowls and ladle in the hot broth and chicken. Top each serving with some crispy garlic and torn cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing and some spicy chili-garlic paste on the side.