Cure-all chicken soup Vietnamese style
Chicken soup, the magical dish that is supposed to be able to cure all ills. The Vietnamese have a version of chicken soup, called cháo gà, but it has rice in it instead of noodles. My Mum made this for me every time I was sick, and until recently, I didn’t actually know how to make it. I have been fortunate enough to be a healthy adult that rarely gets really sick, but at the start of the year, I came down with a severe cold that resulted in me staying in bed for an entire week. It also meant that I was too sick to eat any of the usual foods I would eat if I was well. So, I called my Mum to ask her how to make cháo gà, but for some reason that day she wasn’t answering her phone. In a bit of a pickle, and yearning for this particular dish, I was on a mission to find a recipe. That’s when I came across a cháo gà recipe in a cookbook called Little Vietnam. I can’t believe that this dish is SO easy to make! I felt a little embarrassed that I didn’t know how to make it until now. My Mum finally called me back. I explained to her my situation and, being the awesome Mum that she is, she offered to make it for me and drive it to over to my place. I really didn’t want her to go to all that trouble (bless her cotton socks), instead I consulted her over the recipe I found to which she gave me the thumbs up. When I finished eating a bowl of cháo gà, it dawned on me how important my Mum is as a carer and nurturer. For so long, I had wanted to believe that I was a grown-up who could stand on her own two feet and take care of herself, but even in my thirties I still want my Mum when I’m sick. I now make cháo gà every time I’m feeling a little run down or when my partner (who isn’t Vietnamese) is sick. It’s the dish that, every time I eat it, feels like a little hug from my Mum. So, this recipe is a combination of the recipe I found in my cookbook, as well as some tips from my Mum. It makes about six serves and any left-overs can be frozen.
1 tbs oil
1L chicken stock (I use Campbell’s Chicken Stock)
1L cold water
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3cm piece of ginger, julienned
300g chicken mince
½ tsp white pepper
1 tbs fish sauce (I use the thai Squid brand)
1 tbs granulated white sugar
¾ cup long-grain rice
Chopped coriander and spring onions to serve
Lime wedges to serve
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the mince and cook for about 10 minutes, or until it changes colour. Use a wooden spoon to break up any lumps.
Add the stock, water, ginger, fish sauce, sugar and rice and turn the heat up to high. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Before serving, have a little taste to make sure the flavours are balanced. Add extra fish sauce, sugar or pepper accordingly.
To serve, divide the cháo gà between the bowls and top with chopped coriander and spring onions. Squeeze in the lime juice just before eating.
Note: If I was a true Vietnamese cook, I would’ve made the stock from scratch rather than used packaged stock. My Mum has given me a Vietnamese chicken stock recipe, which I will share at some stage. If you don’t have chicken stock handy, my Mum says you can substitute it with an extra litre of water – you will just need to add more fish sauce and sugar to balance out the flavours. Also, you could substitute the chicken mince with pork or beef. The original recipe is on page 34 of Little Vietnam, authored by Nhut Huynh.