This soup has all of the best things in it: shiitake mushrooms, leafy greens, and enough fresh ginger to kill a small horse. Allergies and springtime colds seem to be plaguing a lot of people these days, and this soup is quite the sinus clearer, with a multi-faceted heat from copious amounts of fresh ginger and cayenne pepper. This is a simple and quick-cooking Asian chicken soup that is both light and satisfying. It is largely flavored with cayenne, fresh ginger, and shiitake mushrooms, which are some of the all time greatest in the history of mushrooms. My soup is a slight variation off a recipe from Bon Appetit. One important distinction that I made was to roast boneless skinless chicken instead of picking a rotisserie chicken. This is more economical, allows for greater quality control, and ultimately, less work. Picking an entire chicken from the bones is a greasy and time-consuming task, and you don’t really know what the story is behind that chicken. See here for my easy method for roasting the chicken; then allow it to cool, and shred it. Unless you are opposed to turning on your oven, this is much less work. The other change I made, which is more important and came by recommendation of a friend, is to use chard instead of spinach. It has more backbone that spinach, yet it is milder than kale, and it ultimately results in a tender, mild green that doesn’t disintegrate or destroy your mouth with tannic weaponry, like spinach. This opposition to spinach may be mine alone, but I still urge you to try the chard.
Another note about my interpretation versus the written recipe: I accidently used approximately 10 times the amount of ginger the recipe called for, and it turned out to be a happy accident. Looking at the recipe, I was so confused to see it call for an 11” piece of ginger, peeled and chopped. It seemed sort of excessive, but I’m an excessive person. So, I went for it; I wasn’t exactly sure how to pick out an 11” piece of ginger, but I chose a decent sized hand, and it ended up being about a third of a cup of peeled, chopped ginger. Writing this up, I realized that it was actually 1-1” inch piece of ginger (i.e. a single one inch piece, not an eleven inch piece). I didn’t exactly measure out eleven inches of ginger, but I definitely used A LOT, and I liked it, especially on day two after it had a minute to infuse and marinate. If you choose to make this recipe, your ginger quotient is entirely up to you, but know that one third of a cup will not harm you.
This soup is also spiced up with cayenne pepper, which can be such a fickle spice. Well, it is really not fickle at all; in fact it a pretty consistent pattern on my palette, but I’m curious to see if other people have the same experience. I find cayenne to be entirely heat-activated, as opposed to red chile flakes, which render spice regardless of temperature. For example, with this soup, until the cayenne steeped in the hot soup, I couldn’t feel the heat. Even with the leftovers, if I had a bite cold (no, cold, broth-based soup is not beneath me), it was barely spicy, simply perfumed by ginger. When I reheated it, it had quite the resounding warmth. While I think it is completely plausible for thermal heat to augment spicy heat, I find it peculiar that the chilled version tastes mild. Is it me? Is there something wrong with me? Well, yes, there’s absolutely something wrong with me, but I’m unsure of whether this is operative example.
On the first night, I made the egregious mistake of not finishing my bowl with a squeeze of fresh time. It was sheer laziness; apparently it can be quite challenging for me to cut a lime into quarters. On the second night I ate this, and those following it, it was more than worth the 2 knife strokes to brighten up my dinner with a splash of green sunshine. In the life of this soup, that is the precise function of fresh lime juice. I would also recommend a drizzle of Bragg’s liquid aminos, as it rounded out the flavors nicely.
Spicy Chicken Soup with Ginger, Shiitakes, and Chard
1-1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken (I used a combination of white and dark meat)
2-3 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound sliced shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1" piece ginger, peeled, chopped (or in my world, 11 inches of ginger)
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bunch green chard, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Lime wedges and Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce (for serving)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the chicken with a little oil, and season with salt and pepper on a sheet pan. Roast for 20 minutes, or just cooked through.
Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, season with a little salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, 8– 10 minutes.
Add mushrooms, and sauté for about 3 minutes.
Then garlic and ginger and cook, stirring often, 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
Add shredded chicken, broth, and cayenne and bring to a boil.
Add chard and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.
Garnish soup in bowls with Bragg’s and a squeeze of fresh lime.