“A deeply flavored chicken noodle soup you can make in 45 minutes is one we’re going to want to make as often as possible,” Deb Perelman writes in her new cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, and we couldn’t agree more. This ginger garlic chicken noodle soup recipe requires neither soup bones or bouillon (or even store-bought broth), yet tastes as comforting and rich as any homemade stock.
“On a cold winter weekend day when nobody wants to go outside,” she explains, “there are few better things than a pot of chicken noodle soup, quietly simmering on the stove while my family, in all likelihood, is glued to another Star Wars marathon. But on a cold winter weekend day when nobody wants to go outside but we also don’t want to spend the afternoon long-cooking a pot of bone broth? This, this is the soup we make.”
As it turns out, simply simmering boneless, skinless chicken thighs with aromatics in salted water can create a gentle but delicious soup base, but as Perelman explains, a few things are key: “Chicken thigh cutlets have more fat than breast cutlets,” she says, “and the richness helps build a more flavorful soup here. Adding the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil at the end as a salty, robust finish, versus cooking them into the broth, keeps them from getting lost in the soup. This gives it a bit of a hot-and-sour-soup note, too, which is also finished with vinegar.”
From Smitten Kitchen Keepers: New Classics for Your Forever Files by Deb Perelman. Copyright © 2022 by Deb Perelman. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
2 pounds (905g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
1 bundle (6 to 8 ounces/170 to 225g) scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens separated
4 teaspoons (11g) kosher salt
Freshly ground white or black pepper
10 cups (2.4kg) water
8 ounces (225g) dried curly (in a brick) or other dried ramen-style noodles
1 cup (135g) sliced carrot, cut into thin matchsticks (about ½ full-sized carrot)
¼ cup (60g) black rice vinegar (see note)
¼ cup (60g) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (25g) toasted sesame oil
Crispy chili oil, to taste
1. Bring the chicken, garlic, ginger, scallion whites (reserve the greens), salt, pepper and water to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is very tender and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes.
2. While the soup simmers, whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil in a bowl, and add as much or as little chili crisp as your heart desires. (Mine desires a lot, but to keep less spice-inclined kids happy, we use just a smidge and add more to our bowls at the table.)
3. Remove the chicken with tongs and transfer it to a cutting board. Add the noodles and carrot to the broth, following the cooking time estimate on your noodles’ package directions. Use two forks to shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Once the noodles are done, return the chicken to the pot and rewarm for about 1 minute. Taste, adjusting the seasoning if needed.
4. Divide the soup between bowls. Add a handful of the reserved scallion greens, and drizzle each bowl with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce mixture, adding more to taste.
Deeper in color and flavor, black vinegar (also sold as black rice vinegar and Chinkiang vinegar) should be very easy to find in an Asian grocery store or online, and I love it here for flavor and color.
Cook the noodles in the soup right before you want to serve it, or they will keep “drinking” the broth until there’s little left.