Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Chicken soup, Malaysian style, is a very simple dish. It's one of the first dishes I learned or rather, was taught to cook. I also taught my 11 year old daughter to make it. My mother, introduced to me a way of making the soup really clear, that is by bringing the water to a boil before dumping in the chicken pieces, so the blood won't mar the transparency of the soup.

I have tweaked the basic chicken soup recipe and come up with variations of it, but the basic Malaysian chicken soup is clear, best served piping hot with white rice, and for those who like to kick it up a notch, with an accompaniment of chilli-spicy sambal.

Sup Ayam (Chicken Soup)

1 whole chicken, cut up into 8-10 pieces
1 medium sized onion, minced/pounded
5-6 garlic cloves, minced/pounded
1-2 inches fresh ginger, minced/pounded
2-3 star anise
2-3 whole cloves
2-3 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced thickly (1/4-1/2 inch thick)
2-3 potatoes, cut into chunks
1 small packet vermicelli thread (optional)
1/4 cup oil
sliced spring onion/green onion for garnish
5 cups water

1. Heat oil and saute minced/pounded ingredients (onions, garlic, ginger) and whole spices (star anise, cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon sticks) till fragrant
2. Add water and bring to a vigorous boil
3. Add in the chicken pieces and cover until chicken is 3/4 cooked (or won't leak out anymore blood)
4. Add carrots and potatoes, continute to boil for another 3-4 minutes
5. Uncover and let simmer till chickens are done, and potatoes and carrots are soft
6. If wish to add vermicelli threads, add at this point and leave to simmer until they become soft
7. Garnish and serve with hot white Jasmine rice

Cook's Notes:

  • I had added some taro balls in place of fish balls in the soup, but you can do without it.
  • You can also vary this by adding one lightly beaten eggs while the soup is boiling towards the end to produce a Chinese-type soup that has stringy cooked egg bits floating around.
I have to warn those who think of soup as thick soup, that Malaysian/Indonesian (or maybe plain East Asian) soups are usually clear and thin, more akin to the Chinese soups than the Middle Eastern thick and rich soups.

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