A humble bowl of chicken soup may or may not cure a case of the flu, but spooning a comforting bowl of soup swimming with noodles and tender hunks of chicken sure makes combatting any form of illness a little less terrible.
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You’re probably not the only one who’s resorted to taking in a quart of chicken soup when that winter cold hits. In fact, chicken soup is one of the most widely interpreted dishes in the world, according to James Beard Award nominee and chef Jenn Louis. In her newest cookbook, “The Chicken Soup Manifesto,” Jenn has compiled a tome of chicken soup recipes that span the globe. A slew of countries boast their own version of the soul-warming soup—from Ethiopia and Japan to Suriname, Moldova, Pakistan, and Russia—some of which may be familiar, others that are likely novel to your palate.
The Chicken Soup Manifesto: Recipes from Around the World, $26.99 on Amazon
As the temperatures drop and that winter cold hits, sure, you could pull out that tattered copy of your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup recipe again, or open up “The Chicken Soup Manifesto” and test out a new version instead. There’s a Portuguese canja de galinha, a thick rice-based soup from the Azores shot through with allspice berries and crowned with a poached egg. Or you could watch a Thai tom kha gai bubble, bobbing with lemongrass stalks, Thai chilies, mushrooms, fish sauce, and tomatoes. If you’re worried about diving straight into the recipes, have no fear: Jenn also provides a ton of chicken advice—from brining techniques to building your own stock—so you’ll be raring to go without much fuss.
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Below, Jenn shares a recipe for laksa, a popular soup you can find in Southeast Asia, often studded with thick wheat noodles, chicken, and seafood. Jenn takes inspiration from Indonesia for this recipe, calling for a mélange of aromatics to blitz together a homemade curry paste (think dried red chilies, ginger, lemongrass, curry powder, and cumin). While the noodles soak, let the curry paste cook down with coconut milk, stock, and chicken legs. The final product should result in a bright orange soup, finished off with half-moon wedges of soft-boiled eggs, bean sprouts, herbs, and sambal oelek (an Indonesian chili sauce). One slurp is sure to clear out your sinuses—and warm your soul.
Recipes excerpted with permission The Chicken Soup Manifesto by Jenn Louis, published by Hardie Grant Books September 2020, RRP $29.99 Hardcover.
Versions of this fragrant laksa paste (curry) are seen in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Southern Thailand. It is believed to have originated as a blend of Chinese ingredients and Southeast Asian cooking practices. Chinese wheat noodles can replace rice noodles, and seafood can be used to replace chicken. Laksa paste is a bit labor-intensive to make, and some ingredients may take an extra trip out, but it is worth it. Laksa paste can be made a week ahead, stored airtight in the refrigerator, or can be frozen in ice-cube trays for up to two months.
- 3 dried red chilies
- 4 red Thai (bird’s eye) chilies
- 5 cm (2 in) piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 shallots
- 3 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed, bottom 10 cm (4 in) only, cut into thirds
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 120 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) vegetable oil
- 4 teaspoons Thai shrimp paste
- 225 g (8 oz) fresh wide rice noodles
- 800 ml (27 fl oz) canned coconut milk
- 750 ml (25 ½ fl oz/3 cups) water or chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons palm sugar (jaggery) or light brown sugar
- 2 x whole chicken legs (approx. 670 g/1½ lb), leg and thigh attached, skin on
- Fish sauce, to taste
- 4 large soft-boiled eggs, halved
- 2 Persian cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
- 115 g (4 oz) bean sprouts
- ¼ bunch mint, leaves only
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- Sambal oelek, to taste
- Place the chilies, ginger, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, coriander, curry powder, cumin, 60 ml (2 fl oz) vegetable oil and the shrimp paste in a blender and process until very fine. Set aside.
- Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with cold water, then place a plate on top of the noodles to keep them fully submerged. Soak for 15 minutes, then strain and set aside.
- Heat a large pot over a high heat and add the remaining oil. Add the curry paste mixture and cook for 45 seconds, stirring and smearing the paste into the oil, until aromatic. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, water or stock and palm sugar, then add the chicken legs and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally, until tender and the broth is very flavorful. The meat should separate from the end of the leg bone when cooked and a thermometer will read 74°C (165°F) when inserted into the thickest part of the leg. Season to taste with fish sauce and salt. Add the noodles and cook for another 1–2 minutes until tender.
- Serve garnished with cooked eggs, cucumbers, bean sprouts, mint, lime wedges and sambal oelek.
Header image by Ed Anderson and George Dolese.