Cold-Killing Chicken Soup with Ginger, Chili Paste and Soy Sauce

The first time that I made a really good chicken soup (documented here), it felt like I’d translated an ancient Jewish text–the Dead Soup Scrolls–and that the resulting soup was irrefutable, everlasting, not-to-be-tampered with. Then, over time, I began to realize that the recipe, which is really just a formula for a very concentrated chicken stock, flavored with root vegetables, and freshened up with more vegetables and dill at the end, was really just that: a formula. A guideline. You could play around and the Jewish police wouldn’t arrest you. So, a few weeks ago, when I had the start of a pretty nasty cold, I decided to integrate some of the flavors that make ramen so curative when colds start to hit hard. And the results were tremendous indeed.

Start like this: in a Dutch Oven (or similarly-sized pot; remember, the bigger the pot, the more diluted your soup…but you don’t want it too small either) throw in half an onion, skin-on (it helps with color), some carrots, some celery, a bay leaf, and a few thick slices of ginger. You don’t have to peel that either. Oh and two peeled garlic cloves.


Now, take a chicken and cut it up. You should learn how to do this because it’ll be a skill you use over and over again. It’s not very hard but I’m at an airport now and really don’t have time to walk you through it. Place the cut-up chicken in the pot with the vegetables and cover everything with cold water. Throw in a few peppercorns and a pinch of salt.


Now turn up the heat, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Walk away. In about an hour or so, it’ll look like this:


Ugly right? But wait til you strain that broth and taste it. But first, take out the chicken–it should be falling off the bone at this point; if not, keep simmering–and let it cool until you can shred it with your hands. Also, lift out the vegetables until all that’s left is broth. Then turn up the heat, bring to an active boil, and concentrate that broth (I learned this from watching David Chang on Mind of a Chef). When it reduces a bit, taste it and correct for salt. Then set aside.

Meanwhile, chop up some fresh vegetables to finish your soup: carrots, and celery and–just for the heck of it–red pepper. Don’t yell at me, grandma. It just seemed right at the time. Oh and some more sliced ginger.


Also, when the chicken’s cool (West Side Story “cool”), tear it apart with your hands.


To finish, strain the broth into a pot (or into a bowl and return to the pot, like I did here), bring it back to a boil, taste for salt, add some egg noodles (as much as you want to eat right now; any more and it’ll soak up all the soup if you leave it overnight), and the vegetables and ginger and chicken.


Cook until the vegetables and noodles are cooked and then, here’s the crazy part: stir in some chile paste (I used Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce) and, just for fun, soy sauce. Yes soy sauce. I saw David Chang do it. It’s ok.

The resulting soup is punchy, refreshing, and oh-so-curative. Garnish with cilantro. Instagram it:


Maybe your rabbi will recoil, but everyone else: put away those tissues and make this soup. I guarantee you’ll feel better immediately.

16 thoughts on “Cold-Killing Chicken Soup with Ginger, Chili Paste and Soy Sauce”

  1. Adrian Reynolds

    I am not sure how necessary it is to cut up the chicken yourself…a decent butcher could do it too. Shouldn’t make the soup taste any different.

  2. That’s very similar to the soup that I make when we get sick. Except I use the chili paste and soy sauce on the chunks of chicken before I recombine it with the mirepoix and broth. I also sauté the mirepoix in the saucepan between cooking the chicken and making the broth…I try to get as much flavor stuck on the pot before I make the broth. I usually buy boneless skinless thigh or breast in the family pack and share it with my dog. My wife is a pescotarian and doesn’t eat the flesh of land and air animals. Luckily for me, she’s not picky if there’s animal broth or juices in the dish.

  3. Sounds pretty good to me. We use either turkey neck or chicken tummies (which the kids love) instead of whole chicken. I’d definitely go for the chili paste but my better half is less enamoured of spicy foods than I so maybe I’ll just stir a splash or 2 of Sriracha into the bowl….

  4. Sounds fabulous!! Just two things– there are two schools of thought on leaving the skins on onions when you’re making stock or soup. One is that it adds color, but the other is that it adds undesirable flavors. I find with good chicken I don’t need other sources of color. The other is this: If you skim off the gunk that floats to the surface of the liquid at the beginning of the cooking phase, you’ll get a clearer broth AND you’ll dramatically reduce the likelihood that you’ll either need or want to strain it.

  5. Natalie Luffer Sztern

    Perhaps you can clarify…there are two thoughts on making chicken is let the water boil and then toss out the water and re-start….second is the way you do it…
    I understand that the idea is to rid the water of the skum and gook on a chicken and by throwing the water out after a boil of 5 minutes you are doing just that. However I believe that if you do that you are losing all the taste of the chicken in those first few minutes.
    What do you say?

  6. Only one hour? Really? When i’ve made chicken soup in the past, the broth was pretty flavourless at that point – two or three hours is what did it. Is that just a matter of ratios of ingredients to water?

  7. love your stuff… is there an easier way to read it? I often tend to save recipes by taking a screen shot with my iPad. no such luck with this long recipe… help!

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      With something like this, I’d rather you just read the essay and learn the basics so you can make the soup your own way rather than follow specific amounts. Otherwise, I usually include a very specific essay at the end!

  8. So I just bought your book and I’m going to try Bookiee’s chicken livers and onions recipe tomorrow. I *hate* liver but I think I’m going to give it a go. I’ve lurked for a good three years now and I write because I really think pressure cooking chicken intensifies the flavour and nixed the skim work.
    I also really like the fact that my mum taught me to saute the chicken a little in butter before adding the veggies and then pressure cooking it because.. well, I think it tastes better. Would you like to give it a go? I can send a link to a recipe.

  9. I made this (sans cilantro) for dinner last night and it went over very well. My ascetic step-son went back for seconds and my wife, the pickiest eater this side of a 4 year old, said it was a keeper. In hindsight, I wish I had used more water at the start. I was afraid of your dilution warning and ended up with an out of whack stuff:broth ratio. I’m not sure how good leftovers are going to be with so little liquid, but it was a solid soup on Night One.

  10. I just made this! It was absolutely delicious! You see, I live in Minnesota. Right now we are experiencing a snowstorm, and everybody is cold and getting sick. I made this and it was the perfect meal. Warm bellies and cleansed bodies. Thank you so much! I loved how unique this recipe is! I just added onions (great addition, by the way!)

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