Chao Ga – Vietnamese Chicken Soup for the Soul

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It’s so cold today! Our first real wintery day in the Dallas. You Yankees may laugh, but we are down in the 40’s tonight and the crisp cold air that bites through my puffy jacket drives me towards soup, soup, and more soup to keep warm! Of all the soups i’ve ever had, the most comforting one is the one I grew up with – Chao Ga. Chao = …soupy rice, and Ga = Chicken. It’s a essentially a chicken rice soup made from scratch using a whole chicken, lots of ginger, and rice. There are many different ways to dress it up, but today’s recipe is one I learned from my mom. This was the soup she would make us when we were sick as kids. Something simple to digest and packed with the healing powers of ginger. I always remember eating a big, hot bowl of this as a kid, blowing quickly on my spoon in my impatience to chow down and sometimes ending up with a burnt tongue! But it was so worth it!


If you are looking for something warm, comforting, and very healthy for you, read on!



  • 1 whole chicken
  • 3/4 stockpot of water
  • 1/ 8 cup sugar
  • 2 TB salt
  • 2 onions (yellow or white)
  • 1 thumb ginger

Chicken salad:

  • bunch fresh basil (thai or sweet)
  • bunch cilantro
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 2 TB fish sauce
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 TB minced dried onions
  • salt, pepper


  • 1/2 thumb ginger
  • 2 green onions


  1. Heat up 3/4 of a stock pot of cold water. Peel one onion and ginger and throw them in the pot. Add about 1 TB salt & bring to boil.


Just water, onion, ginger, salt, sugar leads to so much flavor!

2. Once boiling, carefully toss in the whole chicken with any excess fat cut off/innards removed. Cook for 25 – 45 min.


There’s the chicken!! Guess you should have learned to swim, my delicious one!

3. Take the second onion and cut in 1/2 and then slice very thinly. In a medium sized bowl mix vinegar & 2 TB sugar until dissolved. Add thin sliced onions and let marinate while you prepare everything else.

 IMG_3735 IMG_3736

4.  Wash and coarsly chop the basil & cilantro and set aside. Slice the ginger into tiny, tiny slivers and chop the green onion.

5.  Check the chicken. If you poke a chopstick/fork/etc into the breast and press down and the juice runs clear (vs. pink/red) that means the chicken is done. I left the chicken in about 45 min b/c i was also preparing other food at the same time. Take the chicken out and place in a bowl (tongs work well for this, just grab the chicke up it’s butt and into it’s chest cavity). Also remove the onion & ginger. Set aside to cool.


oh yes, she’s done!


Look at that golden, beautiful broth made so simply from scratch! At this point, you can choose to remove more/less of the fat floating on the top. Confession: I only removed a little. 😀

6.  Take about 7-8 cups of the broth and place in a smaller sauce pan. Reserve the rest to make broth for other soups. Heat the saucepan to boiling and add 1/2 cup rice and cook on medium until rice is soft – about 15-20 min.

7. While the rice soup is cooking, tear up that chicken meat! I like to start by taking off the legs 7 wings and and then making my way to the torso of the chicken. Be careful as it is really hot! Two forks seems to work well for tearing up the chicken. You could also cut up the chicken, but I think the rougher texture of torn chicken is better for this dish. Once you are done, add the bones back in the reserve pot of stock if you’d like to continue cooking.

8. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, marinated onion with excess liquid drained off, basil, cilantro, lime juice, pepper, fish sauce. Toss to distribute.


9. In a small nonstick pan, heat up 1 TB olive oil. Just as it is getting hot, add the minced dried onion and stir quickly and remove off eheat. Add this to the chicken. Toss more. Taste and add more salt/pepper as needed.


10.  Time to serve! Ladle rice soup into a bowl and garnish with green onions, ginger, and dash of black pepper. Serve the chicken salad on the side to be added as desired to the soup. The chilled chicken actually works perfoectly to cool down the super hot soup. I was lazy so I plopped my chicken right into my soup! yummmm!


This is such a comforting meal for those wintry nights. The fragrant broth warms you up while the tart onions play against the fresh herbs, and nearly naked chicken to fill you up!

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