Any Chinese person worth her- or his- salt will know that ginger warms the body and so, when the weather is chilly or after getting caught in snow or rain, one should drink some warming ginger chicken soup to avoid catching a cold. (Conversely, one can also fall ill when one is too heaty and should then eat “cooling” foods such as this Osmanthus Jelly.) The first time I drank ginger soup was on a school trip to Taiwan: we had gotten drenched walking up Taiwan’s famous Alishan (Mountain)- where I had the Best Tea Eggs I’ve Ever Eaten In My Life before promptly disgracing myself by bursting into tears (I have severe acrophobia- I even get dizzy standing on a table!). Our concerned seniors promptly made us warming ginger soup- sans chicken as we were up a mountain- because they didn’t want to be stuck with a bunch of snivelling and ill kids. LOL None of us fell sick, which I attribute to the warming ginger soup! Although Traditional Chinese Medicine doesn’t always have the best reputation, the warming properties of ginger are real- I say this based on extensive personal experience 😛 as well as actual scientific research.
This fragrant warming ginger chicken soup recipe is something my family has made many times and is very versatile: it’s good as a side dish of soup (Chinese people like to have soup with every meal), as a main noodle dish or as a main “submerged rice” dish. (Submerged rice, or pao fan, is different from porridge/congee in that the rice is cooked before being added to the soup (and not cooked in the soup, as this Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice Porridge is.)) This point may seem trivial but it affects the clarify of the soup as cooking the rice in the soup releases starches into the soup which makes it thicker and less clear. (Sometimes I cook the rice in the rice cooker, before boiling it for a while in the liquid, such as with this golden pumpkin fish porridge.)
If you’ve never used coconut water in your cooking before, I promise that this recipe is revelatory: coconut water brings a natural sweetness to your cooking, eliminating the need for any additional refined sugar: healthy and delicious!
Fragrant warming ginger chicken soup recipe
- 2 cups chicken stock Can be substituted with vegetable or seafood stock
- 2 cups coconut water I’ve used both fresh and bottled but, if thelatter, make sure it’s pure coconut water
- 1 big shallot halved and peeled
- 2 lemongrass Root ends cut off and bashed with the back of a knife to release the fragrance. Pop the root ends into water- leave at least1 inch on the root- to grow yourself a new lemongrass!
- 3 thinly sliced pieces of ginger
- 3 tomatoes Cut into 6 pieces- 4 is too chunky. Don't add too many or the soup will be toosweet. Likewise, if you use cherry tomatoes instead, you will need to increasethe amount of lime juice as cherry tomatoes are sweeter than regular ones.
- 1-2 tablespoons lime juice The acidity is necessary to lift the taste as well as to balance the sweetness of the coconut water.
- Fish sauce to taste Can be substituted with salt- the flavour will have slightly less depth but will still be tasty
- Add the chicken stock, coconut water, lemongrass, ginger and shallot to a pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat and let the soup simmer. You should be able to smell the fragrance of the herbs after 5 minutes, if not increase the heat slightly . Allow the soup to simmer for another 10-15 minutes to extract all the fragrance of the herbs.
- Add the tomatoes and lime juice & allow the soup to return to the boil.
- Season with fish sauce, or salt, to your taste.
- The above makes the basic soup base which can be drunk as it is. You can also add prawns,chicken, fish, abalone, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms and chilli to the soup for a heartier dish.
- To bulk the dish into a main, add either noodles or rice. I like to add tang hoon (mung/ greenbean vermicelli) which is first soaked in hot water. Once the noodles have softened, they are then added to the soup. Give everything a stir for 1-2minutes then serve.
- Alternatively, you could add cooked rice to the soup once the soup has finished simmering to make “paofan” or submerged rice.
If you already use coconut water in your cooking, I’d love to hear how you use it!