hainanese chicken soup

August 2, 2010

It’s a well known fact that an onslaught of the dreaded lurgy calls for nothing less than a big bowl of chicken soup.

Full of nature’s own goodness. Delicious. Warming. And most of all, made with the kind of love that gladly suffers fingers smelling of garlic and chickeny juices long after the last bowl has been downed.

Cleansing. Energising. Heartening.


And, I would venture, even more so when the chicken soup recipe is adapted from a recipe dug out from my mother’s Year Seven Home Economics workbook. (Another well known fact is that all Malaysian mothers have access to a treasure of beautiful recipes. It’s just a matter of getting one’s hands on them.)

I tinkered with it, of course, because I am no good at sticking to recipes, regardless of how lengthily tried and tested they are. Nothing is safe. Particularly when good old imported bulbs of white garlic are nowhere to be found and gorgeous (albeit triply expensive) bulbs of imported purple garlic are abundant in their place.


You see, the VTB had caught a bug and was nigh on expiration. His head hurt! His throat hurt! He was weak! And blocked up! And weary!

And I, having little to no knowledge of how proper chicken soup is made, fell back on the only recipe I did know. With added ginger and garlic to get rid of the bugs. With the most tender, slippery, non-throat hurting recipe for chicken I knew. The only recipe that will have me going back for thirds when I really should have stopped at seconds.

(Ok, that was a part truth… I eat far too much as a rule. Tsk!)

His appetite grew. His energy grew. He ate half a chicken and a good litre or so of soup for dinner that night, and was doing the dishes with good graces by the next day.

A miracle soup? Probably not. But it sure is worth a try.


hainanese chicken soup

This could oh-so-very-easily be turned into the better known hainanese chicken rice by cooking your rice with crushed ginger, garlic and ladles of the finished stock. But when everything aches, there’s nothing like the spicy warmth of soup. Dial the ginger and garlic down if you aren’t a fan, or if you’re making this recipe for the healthy. I love it with a little too much kick.

you will need:

1kg free range organic chicken (get the best you can afford)
2 bulbs of garlic�
10cm root of ginger
1tbsp sesame oil
2tsp light soy sauce�
2 carrots
wombok leaves

how to do it:

1. Peel the garlic and set three cloves aside. Peel the ginger with a teaspoon by scraping the tip over the skin (magic!) and chop it into 1mm slices. Peel and chop the carrot into chunks.

2. Grab a pot that will fit two chickens in comfortably and half fill it with water. You want enough water to allow the chicken to sit submerged in the liquid with about an inch of extra water over the top. Set the water to boil.

3. Set aside two cloves of garlic and four or five slices of ginger. Stuff half of the remaining ginger and garlic inside the chicken. (Apologies for the picture, I know it looks almost censorable.)

4. Toss the garlic, ginger and carrot into the water. Once the water comes to a crazy, bubbly boil, lower the chicken into the water and put the lid back on immediately. Let the water come back to the boil. Now here’s the important bit. Ready? Let the water boil for ten minutes. Turn the heat off. Leave the lid on the pot with the heat off for forty minutes.

4a. You’d better not have opened the lid.

4b. Seriously. You’d better not have opened that lid. I’ve had dreams of being on masterchef and making this dish and had George Colombaris sneak up and peep in the pot. You wouldn’t be-lieve the ear bollocking he got from me. In my dream. *cough*.

5. While you’re waiting for the time to pass, pound your saved garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle until it is thoroughly pulverised and stir the sesame oil and soy sauce through.

6. Open the lid, fish out the chicken and immediately submerge it in a big bowl of iced water, leaving it there until it cools completely. Pull the chicken out of the iced water and leave it on a chopping board to dry for five to ten minutes. While the chicken is cooling and drying, turn the heat back on your stock and start reducing it down.

7. Rub the ginger/garlic/sesame oil/soy paste all over the chicken and separate it from the bone. Slice it into strips, or shred it roughly. Toss the bones back in the stock and let it simmer on a very low heat for an hour.

8. Time to eat! Wash and cut some wombok leaves up. Toss them in the hot stock for thirty seconds and ladle the soup into bowls. Top with shredded chicken and serve with love. Try not to burp garlic on your loved one in the process.