GUO BA TANG (Chinese chicken and sizzling rice soup, for six)
For the stock:
a whole roasted chicken carcass, meat removed and reserved (Cecilia uses a whole, raw “yellow” or organic chicken with head and feet still attached — they give a gelatinous quality to the stock. You will probably only find this at a Chinese market. See notes for using a raw chicken.)
a 2 inch piece of unpeeled fresh ginger, lightly smashed
2 teaspoons salt
For the soup:
5 or 6 dried black mushrooms
2 cups cooked chicken meat reserved from the stock
six 2 inch square commercial rice cakes
6 cups chicken stock
½ cup sugar snap or snow peas
3 ounces medium shrimp shelled, deveined and tails removed, cut into ½ inch pieces
2/3 cup water chestnuts, drained and finely diced
freshly ground white pepper
1. Combine the chicken or bones and scraps in a stockpot with salt and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface of the stock.
2. Add the ginger to the stock and simmer, partly covered, 1-1/2 hours or more (Cecilia recommends 4 to 5 hours). Strain through a sieve into a bowl. Degrease the stock.
3. In a bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain, thinly slice and set aside.
4. About 20 minutes before you want to serve the soup, preheat the oven to 350*. Put the rice cakes on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. In a large saucepan bring the chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium low to maintain a simmer and add the mushrooms. Cook about 2 minutes, then add the chicken. Cook 2 minutes more and add the sugar snap peas, shrimp and water chestnuts. Cook 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Season to taste. Transfer the hot soup to a heated tureen or large serving bowl and put the rice cakes on a heated platter.
6. To serve immediately drop the rice cakes into the soup and listen to the sizzle. Ladle the soup into bowls, making sure to include rice in each portion.
- If you want to make the soup with an uncooked chicken: Rinse the uncooked bird under cold tap water, remove any excess fat and and any giblets stashed in the cavity, and place the chicken in a pot with 1 tablespoon salt and water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partly covered, for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken from the pot to a plate (reserve the stock) and set it aside until it is cool enough to handle. Discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones and shred the meat. Once the meat has cooled completely, cover and refrigerate it until you’re ready to finish the soup. Return the bones to the pot and continue with the recipe at step 2.
- If your leftover chicken carcass doesn’t have enough meat on it to finish the soup: buy 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts from your grocery, salt them and add them to the degreased stock in step 2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and poach the chicken until the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a plate to cool, then shred it. Proceed with step 3.
VARIATIONS: This stock can form the basis for several Chinese soups:
To make spinach and tofu soup (bo cai dou fu tang), bring the stock to a boil and add 8 ounces silken tofu, diced and squeezed gently to remove some of its water. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach and ½ teaspoon kosher salt, stir and remove from the heat. To serve ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with sesame oil.
To make winter melon and ham soup (hon tui dong gua tang), remove and discard the rind and seeds from¼ winter melon (about 1 pound). Cut the flesh into 1 inch squares that are approximately ¼ inch thick. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, drop in the winter melon, and cook 5 minutes. Drain, rinse the melon in cold water and set aside.
In a saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Add the winter melon, decrease the heat to medium low, and simmer 10 minutes. Add a 2 ounce piece of Virginia ham, about 1 inch thick, and simmer 5 minutes longer. To serve ladle into bowls, season with freshly ground white pepper (the ham should provide enough salt) and sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro.
adapted from Cecilia Chang, The Seventh Daughter