A cleansing chicken noodle soup

Cleansing soup

Essentially, this is a chicken poached gently in water with added bits and bobs. The chicken and its meaty juices are the base upon which you can build all sorts of exciting concoctions. If you want a real savoury hit then add an onion, celery, parsley, carrot, tomato, peppercorns and a bay lef or two, just like a stock. You’ll end up with a lovely meaty clear soup.

But tonight, I wanted something different, more cleansing than heavily flavoured. I’ve been working hard these last couple of days and i needed something as a pick-me-up. A soup with a bit of zing, a bit of excitement, but one that also left me with the same relaxed feeling you get after a particularly long walk in the crisp air. So I put in lemongrass, lime and ginger for a bit of zing, chillis added some heat and coriander gave it a really fresh feel. Noodles and some of the poached chicken breast gave it body and made it a proper meal. The broth itself is not too heavy, certainly not as much as a flavourful as hearty stock, but it has a lovely light meaty taste, accentuated but not overwhelmed by the citrus, herb and chili notes.

The soup
For two or three
The beauty of this recipe is that it is very adaptable. And it uses my favourite method of measurement – a bit of this, a handfull of that. The amounts are totally up to you. You know how hot or herby you want your soup. Basil would be a great addition, especially if you can find yourself some of the Thai variety. You could also add greens, choi sum, pak choi, cabbage, sprout tops, spinach, morning glory – anything green that cooks well in water. The possibilities are endless. I went for a really simple version, and it hit the spot perfectly.

1 free range chicken 
3 stalks of lemongrass
A large lump of ginger – cleaned and quatered, but not peeled
A bunch of coriander leaves
A couple of chillies
Half a lime
Fish sauce
Dark rice vinegar (or balsamic)
Noodles – enough for two/three

Peel the outer layers from the lemongrass, cut each stalk into two and crush it a little by bashing it with the handle of your knife. Separate the coriander leaves from the stalks. Put the chicken in a large pot and tuck the lemongrass, coriander stalks and ginger around it. Cover with water and bring to a simmer, leave on the lowest heat for a couple of hours. You don’t want it boiling, just very, very gently bubbling. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface.¬†

After the two hours are up and your kitchen is full of a gentle chickeny scent, remove the bird from the pot and fish out the lemongrass, ginger, stalks and any bits of chicken that have dropped off. Glug in some fish sauce and add a teaspoon or two of the dark sweet-sharp vinegar. Slip in the noodles – you can use rice or egg varieties here, they both work really well, slice the chilli and scatter over. If you are using bird’s eye (mouse shit) peppers, then don’t add them yet, you’ll end with something a little too explosive. I used long red chillies which impart a medium background heat that leaves your lips tingling and your throat warmed. This is the point to add any veg if you’re using it. Boil for two minutes and remove from the heat.

Divide the noodles between two or three bowls, scatter the coriander leaves over the top, shred some chicken and put that in too (and bird’s eye peppers if your using them) and squeeze over the lime. Pour over the piping hot broth and eat. If you don’t want your soup too cleansingly hot, remove the chili slices before eating. The end result should leave you feeling warm, cleansed and replete all at once.

14 Responses to “A cleansing chicken noodle soup”

  1. paul

    Great recipe ! something I do at home myself very often with the carcass of a roast chicken and/or pork bones, particularly ribs – excellent!

  2. The Grubworm

    Thanks Paul – it’s definitely one I make when I’m feeling a bit drained. Easy (if lengthy) to cook and it tastes great.

  3. nibblescribbler

    Was daydreaming about a broth like this the other day and wondering whether I could find myself a good recipe…lo and behold, what good timing!

    Am going to attempt a Vietnamese style version this weekend as post-party hangover fare, and take my trip to the Viet Hoa restaurant on Kingsland road this evening as inspiration. Whoop! Thanks GW!

  4. The Grubworm

    You’re very welcome! It does make a good hangover cure – especially if you plonk yourself near the hob and inhale chickeny fumes for a couple of hours… I’d be interested to hear how your Vietnamese version goes and what goes into it, I’m always looking for good variations.

  5. Leluu

    Your blog is so great! As you make me WANT to cook. Got chicken stock and bits and bobs – and hope for a great soup tonight x

  6. The Grubworm

    Wow – thanks Leluu :-D Like i said to nibblescribbler above, i’d be interested in what bits and bobs you add to the soup so i can experiment too. Sort of collaborative soup-sourcing…

  7. Leluu

    I did it – I added tamarind powder instead of vinegar. I only had mushrooms and some tomatoes so ended up tasting abit like tom yam soup – without corriander as was too lazy to go to the shops. Thanks so much for the inspiration – its funny how I always stick to the same old ingredients and what I know although what you put together is very familiar to me – I just never try it this way for chicken but more for fish and no noodles. I have another great chicken noodle soup that I will post in couple of days for you to try.

    I make fresh chicken for my dogs all the time so always have great chicken stock at hand. Everyone says they are really lucky dogs! I agree – they eat better than a lot of people : )

  8. The Grubworm

    Tamarind powder sounds lovely – where can get hold of that? I have seen the paste and whole dried tamarind around but never the powder (mind you i never really looked for it either).

    Like you, i stick to the same old ingredients most of the time, i guess because its what i have hanging round the cupboards. I’ve never thought of doing it with fish – what stock base do you use for that and what sort of fish works best?

    Those dogs do sound well fed indeed!

  9. Tom

    I am seriously impressed at your food turnover! And your blog is looking great. Food and html…

  10. The Grubworm

    Thanks Tom – it’s hard to job to maintain a turnover like that, but someone’s got to do it ;-)

    I cook to relax after a long day at work, it’s not unusual for me to get home after a 10 hour day and then cook for another hour or two. I guess it’s my equivalent of flopping in front of the box. I tend to prepare slowly and it feels great. It’s also why I don’t tend to cook complex dishes during the week.

  11. shayma

    i dont think i could live without coriander. and lemongrass in this soup, too? what a luscious combo of divine fragrances.

  12. The Grubworm

    Coriander and lemongrass to give dishes a certain something don’t they? Coriander in particular is so versatile and is used in s many different cuisines. I must use lemongrass more, i do love it, but forget to use it so often. And yet is imparts that gentle lemony (and yes, grassy) aroma to a dish.

  13. Leluu

    Tamarind Powder – you can get it in most Vietnamese Supermarkets – it might not say ‘Tamarind Powder” in English – so watch out for the picture x

  14. The Grubworm

    @Leluu I shall keep an eye out for it – are there any particular brands you would recommend?

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