For millenniums, the chicken soup’s reputation as an elixir has been a shared prescription across myriad cultures around the globe. But while we can all agree that it is the ubiquitous culinary equivalent of a warm hug on a cold, rainy day, it would be decidedly imprudent to assume that the preferred dish revolves around a single recipe. One that starts with a mirepoix of root vegetables and onions might be the first to come to mind if you grew up somewhere west of the prime meridian.
While those with a fondness for Cantonese fare would insist on a bowl of double-boiled black chicken soup, especially if you are feeling a little under the weather. The latter is said to be rich in antioxidants, though there is also much to be savoured in a more indulgent alternative—one that uses instead GG French chickens that are famously flavourful and free from antibiotics and chemical growth promoters. Besides, much of the chicken soup’s effectiveness, I feel, lies simply in the fact that it is at once comforting and delicious.
(Related: Tips to Keep Soup a Healthy Option)
One such example is a rendition that combines a signature dish of Mok Kit Keung, the executive chef at Shangri-La Singapore’s Shang Palace, with a Cantonese classic. In a nod of sorts to his well-loved dish of bone-less quail filled with bird’s nest in supreme broth, the ever-creative chef decided to fill a deboned leg of the afore-mentioned organic chicken variety with the makings of the traditional Buddha Jumps Over the Wall. Prized ingredients, such as Japanese sea cucumber, abalone, deer sinew and fish maw, are first packed inside the chicken leg and steamed for an hour.
The mulligatawny is not Eurasian per se, but more of an Anglo-Indian soup that came out of British India during the British occupation
“The filled chicken leg is then doubled-boiled with bird’s nest, supreme broth and dendrobium flowers for 45 minutes,” he explains, noting as well how the preparation of the lush yet soothing broth it is served in is an equally laborious task that requires chicken, pork and Jin-hua ham to be cooked in French mineral water for eight hours. To further elevate the dish’s flavour profile and aromatics, fragrant Wu Jia Pi Chinese herbal wine is added just before serving.