STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS WITH PICTURES
Preheat the clay pot (or other heavy-duty stockpots) until nice and hot. Add a little bit of cooking oil to sear the chicken and Jin Hua ham (optional) until golden brown. This will take a few minutes on each side.
Jinhua ham is totally optional, but I just love the rich umami taste that it brings into the broth. You can use other types of cured meat, with a little bit of fat like the piece I am using will be the best.
It is best to have bone-in and skin-on chicken. The skin is going to help us to create the mallard reaction and the bones will build up the flavor foundation for the broth. I usually use chicken quarters because they are affordable. If you don't like dark meat, you can use chicken breast plus little extra chicken bones.
When you flip to fry the other side, add the ginger, garlic, shallot, scallions. Stick them in between the gap of the chicken and let them be fragrant. I personally love to use a large amount of ginger in my chicken soup. The heat makes the soup very comfortable.
Once you got enough brown surfaces, pour in 2 liters of boiling hot water. This is my secret - When the boiling water touches the hot clay pot, it will bubble violently (intensely) which shakes the meat and accelerates the protein dissolution. This will instantly make your broth rich and flavorful. You can see the broth turn into a beautiful brown color in a couple of minutes. Normally, it will take you hours to get that result.
Even though the broth is already done but you still have to turn the heat to low and simmer this for about 15 minutes just so the chicken meat can be nice and tender.
During this time, you can slice the mushrooms. These are shiitake, but other types will work as well. I can’t have chicken soup without mushrooms. They pair well with each other. Cut some bok choy. You can use other green leafy vegetables that you like.
15 minutes later, turn off the heat and take out all the chicken. Let it cool. Discard the aromatics. Skim off the chicken fat. This is called an oil strainer. It is super fine that it allows the water to drain down but keeps the oil. So you can skim the oil out easily.
Add the mushrooms. Turn the heat to high and bring the broth back to a full boil. Drop in 4-5 servings of noodles. Just for reference, it will be 400-500 grams of fresh noodles or 250-300 grams of dried noodles from a package. I am using fresh ramen noodles but you can use whatever you have on hand, such as pasta, egg noodles, rice noodles, mung bean noodles, even instant noodles will work well.
You can cook the noodles in a separate pot and then transfer into the broth, so it doesn’t thicken your soup. I actually prefer my chicken noodle soup to be a little bit thick and silky. That’s why I am cooking it in the broth directly.
My noodles are fresh so they just need a few minutes of simmering. Depending on the thickness and the brand, the cooking time may vary. If you are not sure, read the instructions on the package before cooking.
During this time, you can take the meat off the chicken bone and shred it into pieces. Discard the chicken skin now. It is edible. I just don’t like soggy chicken skin like that. To be honest, I have made this countless times for my family, I never shred the chicken. We each take a whole thigh or drum stick and eat it that way. Since I moved to the USA, I noticed that most western people don’t like to eat chicken with bones.
Season the shredded chicken with any seasoning you want. I like to do a mix of soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce. Sprikle a few shakes of garlic powder and drizzle in some sesame oil. Mix well and set it aside. Give it a taste - um, delicious.
When the noodles are almost done, toss in the baby bok choy. Let it blanch for 30 seconds. Before serving, add some salt and white pepper to taste. Dinner is ready.
Actually, in China, noodle soup is more like for breakfast. I know it is a lot of carbs but it gives you full-day energy, especially my parents used to get paid by labor. This is one of our stable breakfast recipes because it is super easy and budget-friendly. You can get chicken quarters for like 80 cents a pound. A couple of dollars for the noodles and an estimated few dollars for the vegetables and the seasonings, literally, you can feed your whole family with less than 8 dollars.