This Vietnamese chicken rice soup is a quick cheater’s version of the insanely soothing congee, the southeast Asian comfort food that’s simply rice slowly simmered in chicken broth. It’s typically cooked low and slow for hours, although here we make certain it’s on the table in less than an hour—without sacrificing anything in terms of taste. Perfect for whatever affliction you may have, whether of body or soul.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Vietnamese Chicken Rice Soup
For the soup
- 1 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 quarts water
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce, preferably Red Boat brand
- 1 mild vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup uncooked rice, preferably long-grain jasmine, rinsed and drained
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
For the garnish
- 3 scallions, sliced
- 6 fresh cilantro stems, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts, crushed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Season the chicken legs with salt.
- Bring the water and the fish sauce to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the chicken and reduce the heat to maintain a very delicate simmer.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, rice, and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice grains are opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice mixture to the chicken in the stockpot. Continue cooking until the chicken is done, about 25 minutes. Remove the chicken and let it cool on a plate until it’s easy to pick and shred the meat. Continue to cook the rice until slightly overcooked and thicker.
- Ladle the soup into warm bowls. [Editor’s Note: The author says if you’re making this to help ease a sickness, feel free to use the gentle steam as a sinus cleanse.] Garnish with the shredded chicken, scallions, cilantro, peanuts, and pepper.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This rather simple but flavorful Vietnamese chicken rice soup was exactly what I needed in my life. I haven’t been feeling the greatest the last week and nothing has been sounding great to me other than toast and cereal. Determined to get out of my nauseated rut, I was needing a good simple soup to warm me up and satisfy. This was that soup. The broth was just salty enough and the ginger helped with my stomach, but there was just a hit of freshness with the cilantro and scallions. This soup hit the spot in a way I desperately needed but will be welcomed this winter when we need a bit of warming up. Smelled so good! My rice cooked seriously fast, I ended up just turning the burner off and putting the lid on top of it to keep everything hot whilst waiting on the chicken. I was really surprise that I didn’t need to add more sodium to the broth! I actually found it to be salty enough. I did bring out the soy sauce just in case my husband decided differently. My husband did add some Sriracha and a touch of hoisin to his broth (I was perfectly fine with the way it was) to make it a bit more complex for him. I would definitely try that next time, when my stomach isn’t too sensitive.
This Vietnamese chicken rice soup came into my life at precisely the right moment—as soon as I was struck down with the flu. A warm, fragrant bowl of chicken soup was exactly what I needed. The idea to use chicken legs is a great one—you get a fast, fortified broth but without the tedious cooking and straining that we’re so familiar with when making stock from a whole carcass. Once the chicken cooks, the legs are easy to remove and the meat falls right off the bone in perfect quantities without having to be cut or shredded. If I take nothing else from this recipe, it will be that. The flavors in this soup are lovely and complement one another quite well. My only critique would be that there wasn’t nearly enough salt for my taste. Though I do appreciate that this is a matter of personal preference, I’d still add a bit more to the soup itself before serving. I let the finished soup cook for about an hour and a half as the rice was still thickening.
The beauty of this Vietnamese chicken rice soup is how just a few ingredients can really shine. I loved the broth produced by just the simmering of the chicken legs in the fish sauce, the skin of the chicken gave a bit of body to the broth and easily slipped off when I removed the chicken to shred it off the bone. The only real change I suggest is I would increase the ginger or perhaps grate it rather than mince, which would increase it as well as make the ginger flavor more available. When I reheated leftovers the second day, I grated another tablespoon of ginger. Also, the slight funk of fish sauce is NOT my personal favorite, but I found a small squeeze of fresh lime solved that for me. In the future (and for others who may not love fish sauce), I will probably use a mixture of Tamari or light soy + sake + miso, similar to how I make my vegan dashi. I love the comforting texture of the somewhat “dog-boned” rice, and will turn to this soup as a comfort all year round. Sautéing the rice with the ginger and garlic before adding to the broth reminded me of how my mother prepared rice pilaf. Be glad you have the chicken and broth in a tall stockpot, as when you add the rice and aromatics they will sizzle and splatter a bit when they hit the broth. I think a fresh broth like this is worth seeking the best chicken you can get—you only need 2 whole legs for this recipe. Also, be generous with the cilantro! Himself felt the peanuts were important and made it special. I bashed the peanuts gently in a baggie with a wooden machacadora (or bean masher, one of my favorite tools). I had everything from large chunks to finely ground nuts and the mixture really was nice in the garnish.