Chicken Soup with Ginger and Shiitake Mushrooms
Chicken soup doesn’t need to take hours to make. This is a simple, light chicken soup that is richly flavored with shiitake mushrooms, and brightened with fresh ginger and soy sauce. The stock is very light, and comes just from the cooking of the ingredients for less than half an hour. But the combination of the ginger, chicken, mushrooms, soy sauce and a touch of salt and sugar is just lovely, and I highly recommend trying this soup. The recipe is an adaptation of one I discovered in a most curious cookbook, The Cultural Revolution Cookbook by Sasha Gong and Scott Seligman. One doesn’t usually think of this rather painful period of Chinese history, when millions of Chinese urban youth, children of “intellectuals,” were forced into the countryside to work as farmers, for its culinary legacy. But during this period, people learned to make do, and to create nourishing, satisfying food from simple, local ingredients.
The original recipe, upon which this one is based, is for “Steamed Ginger and Mushroom Chicken”. The recipe required a bamboo steamer and wok, neither of which we had, so we decided to make our own version. Same ingredients, somewhat different method.
After the heaviness of holiday food, this one is especially refreshing. Enjoy!
Typically for this recipe one would use bone-in chicken thighs hacked into big pieces with a cleaver, or with poultry shears. The bones help create flavor and richness for the stock. You can use boneless chicken thighs if you prefer. Or use bone-in, and then remove the bones after the chicken has cooked, before serving.
- 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (dried is much preferable to fresh in this recipe)
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, preferably bone-in, cut into chunks
- A 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced very thin
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
1 Soak the mushrooms in the hot water for 20 minutes. Use a bowl or a smaller pot to keep the mushrooms submerged in the water.
2 While the mushrooms are soaking, mix the soy, sugar, salt and corn starch in a large bowl. Make sure there are no corn starch lumps. Add the chicken and ginger to the bowl, toss to coat with the marinade, and set aside.
3 When the mushrooms have softened, remove from the water (saving the soaking liquid) and slice thin. Add the mushrooms into the bowl with the chicken. If the soaking water has grit in it, pour the soaking water though a fine-meshed sieve lined with a paper towel into another bowl.
4 Put the chicken mushroom mixture, and the mushroom soaking liquid into a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a bare simmer, cover the pot and cook gently for 25 minutes. Serve hot.