NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

January 8, 2014

Soup therapy

A comforting chicken dish with Chinese influences

When it’s cold outside, I love making soup for supper. Everything goes into a single pot, starting with an aromatic broth and a substantial array of vegetables, then a little bit of protein, and finally a crispy garnish. And when dinner’s over, there’s only that one pot to wash!

This recipe’s fragrant broth is essentially a Chinese version of a Jewish chicken soup. Folklore has it that the latter is a cure-all, if only because it’s so comforting. But once you add a significant amount of fresh ginger, as I have here, your case for the soup’s therapeutic value is even stronger. Ginger does great things for the body, which is why I keep a big batch of ginger tea simmering on the stove when I’m fighting a cold.

Swimming in this broth are four vegetables — carrots, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and peas. I chose them not only because they’re the kind of vegetables you might find in a Chinese soup, but also because they are nutritious and provide a fresh array of colors. That said, you’re welcome to swap them out in favor of any number of other winter veggies, including butternut squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, broccoli and parsnips.

But whatever else you add to the soup, make sure that the chicken goes in last. Cut into bite-sized chunks, it takes little time to cook, but it will become tough and leathery if cooked too long.

At the end of it all, you’ll want to add some wonton crisps, which bake quickly and contribute some flavorful crunch. A healthful approximation of the wonderful fried noodles often found on Chinese-styled salads, these crisps spend no time submerged in oil. You simply take fresh wonton wrappers (an all-purpose item you always want to have at hand in your freezer), cut them into strips, toss them with a tiny bit of oil, then bake them until crispy (which happens in a flash). They’re the crowning touch for a soup that’ll warm you from the inside out.

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