Sesame and Ginger Chicken Soup

It’s been quite some time since I’ve shared a recipe on this website, but if there was ever a dish for a comeback, this fragrant chicken soup is it. If you’re like me, and are trying to ween yourself off what has become a daily ration of Christmas cookies and other sweet treats, a healthy soup loaded with ginger and vegetables is the perfect follow-up to holiday decadence, not to mention just right for a cold winter day.

While I was still living on the farm this past fall and the cold air seemed to have crept into our trailer for good, all I wanted was something to warm me from the inside. We had plenty of homemade chicken stock on hand (do you know about the health benefits of bone broths?), so I browned some legs and thighs, added some stock and tossed a big pile of cut up veggies into a pot. I let everything simmer together for an hour or so, pulled the tender chicken off the bone and stirred it back into the soup along with several handfuls of hearty greens. The result was a rich and satisfying soup with little effort, and it only got better in the days to come.

Once I returned home to Brooklyn I decided to make another pot of chicken soup, but this time I spiked it with Asian flavors inspired by this recipe from Melissa Clark – a favorite from last winter. I love the smell of ginger and star anise wafting through the apartment as the soup simmers, and the way the big chunks of daikon radish and carrots drink up the broth as they become flavorful and tender. Sesame and Ginger Chicken Soup is now a staple of the Thomason household, much to the enjoyment of Brad and several of our friends who have dropped by just in time for me to ladle them a bowl of hot chicken soup.

Sesame and Ginger Chicken Soup

  • 2-3 Tablespoons sesame oil (plus more for serving)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut up (or 3 lbs. bone-in chicken parts)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and sliced
  • 2″ piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 quart chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 4 large carrots, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 daikon radishes, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 lb. shitake mushrooms, tough stems removed and sliced
  • 4 whole star anise pods
  • 1 bunch spinach, coarsely chopped (if your radishes have nice greens on them, you could use those too)
  • chili paste for serving (optional)
  • cooked rice for serving (optional)

In a large stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons sesame oil over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken parts in a single layer, skin side down, and allow to sizzle until they’re golden brown (about 5 minutes). Remove the chicken to a bowl, add some additional oil to the pot if necessary, and sauté the ginger and garlic for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until very fragrant. Add the stock, water, chicken, carrots, radishes, soy, mirin and vinegar. The liquid should just cover the contents of the pot. Allow the soup to come to a bubble and skim off any foam that floats to the surface. Add the mushrooms and anise pods and reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 1 hour until the chicken is tender and easily pulls away from the bone.

Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to rest on a cutting board until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin. Pull the chicken off the bones and tear into roughly 1″ thick pieces. Return the chicken pieces to the pot and stir in the spinach until just wilted. Serve the soup, garnished with a few drops of sesame oil. You may also wish to serve some chili paste and rice on the side to spoon into the soup as desired.

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