Soup is an obvious choice for the dinner table on chilly winter nights. It’s relatively inexpensive to make and it’s the epitome of comfort food—warm, filling and soul-satisfying.
Here is a soup inspired by a Filipino specialty called tinola. It’s basically ginger chicken soup. During the winter, chicken soup is the best thing to have in the house next to Nyquil and orange juice. The traditional version is made with a couple of heaping teaspoons of patis, which is fish sauce. Fish sauce is a great condiment to have in not only an Asian pantry but any pantry. Contrary to its name, it doesn’t taste fishy; in fact, it is extremely salty and just a dash of it packs a potent punch to any dish. Other than this soup, fish sauce is common in many Asian recipes such as pad Thai or curries.
The Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area is home to a great Asian grocery Hua Xing Asian Market on Washtenaw. This well-stocked store has everything you need to prepare a traditional Asian feast (plenty of seafood, produce and ingredients such as the aforementioned fish sauce as well as soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and plenty of other condiments that are much cheaper here than the so-called international foods aisle at your local Meijer) or throw an impromptu get-together (the trendy mochi frozen dessert is available here as well as a large array of frozen buns and dumplings as well as sweets at budget-friendly prices). Finally shopping at ethnic grocery stores is an economical way to shop. For example, there are huge bags of white rice available for about $20. This bag will last you so long you won’t even remember when you bought it and luckily it lasts as long. Compare that to a small bag that you buy at the big-box store that lasts a couple of meals for a family of four.
The beauty of this soup is that it is easily adaptable to what you have on hand and preferences.
Ginger chicken soup
- 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds, broken down into pieces
- 2 teaspoons of minced ginger
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- Canola oil
- 1 bunch of greens (if you’re going the traditional Filipino route, try chili pepper leaves or feel free to use fresh spinach)
- Optional: 1 chayote or papaya, cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons of patis, or fish sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil over medium heat and fry the garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper until fragrant, about 30 seconds. In batches, brown the chicken. When they are all browned return to pan and cover with water. Season with some pepper and the patis (no salt is needed because the patis is salty enough!).
Cook for about an hour until it’s falling off the bone.
During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the chayote if using and the greens (if using spinach, add in the last 5 minutes).
Serve over a bowl of steamed white rice.