Asian chicken broth: An intense and incredibly tasty soup

There are countless delicious Asian soups but this ginger, chicken brothy variety is a winner

One of my favourite Asian soups is hot and sour soup with plump prawns, it has a truly distinctive taste that I really love. One hot summer in Dublin, I sat at a white plastic table in an upstairs cafe, while the restaurant owners’ family ate in the room next door. It was noisy, bustling and homely. I could feel the effect of the hot and sour soup in my feet. A rolling wave of heat from the chillies and a blast of sour from the lime and tamarind. It was off the Scoville scale, intense and so incredibly tasty.

A few years ago I travelled through Thailand and Vietnam, ladling back copious amounts of fragrant herb laden soups. The Vietnamese noodle soup, pho, is  the ultimate restorative comfort food. Pho is the breakfast of choice for many Vietnamese people, street stalls dish out steaming bowls that are slurped up at the roadside as the sun comes up. The term pho refers to the white rice flour noodles that are in the soup.

There are countless delicious Asian soups but this is a ginger, chicken brothy variety. I’ve used fine strips of courgette and carrot in my recipe in place of the noodles. It’s one way of adding more raw fresh vegetables to a dish, but by all means add noddles if you want. A handful of crunchy bean sprouts is also a great addition.

Along with nam pla, the fermented fish sauce, dried lime leaves are widely available in supermarkets and give a distinctive mellow citrus flavour. The dried leaves rehydrate once immersed in the simmering stock and come back to life. If you have access to fresh kaffir lime leaves, you can store them in the freezer. A few bruised sticks of lemongrass are delicious in this soup too.

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The stock or broth has to be full of flavour, which is why I like to start with a rich stock and add more by means of the star anise and ginger. I’ve used mushrooms to give a dark earthy meatiness here, and beef would also be great in place of the chicken. I use leftover roast chicken or duck to make this soup. It’s the best way to get value from good quality meat and makes a really flavourful broth.

Recipe: Asian chicken broth