Here is Mama Lin’s recipe for homemade Chinese chicken noodle soup. It is a delicious and light soup served with wonton noodles, baby bok choy, and carrots. Make it a complete meal by serving the soup with chicken wontons!
Thank you to Knorr® Chicken Powder for sponsoring this post!
When I was growing up, Mama Lin always made chicken soup on the weekends. First, she went to Chinatown in San Francisco to buy a fresh chicken. Then, she came home to butcher, clean, and prepare the chicken for making soup. The best chicken soup came from fresh chickens, she would say. Nowadays, she buys freshly butchered chickens from Chinatown, but her soup making ritual remains the same otherwise.
Mama Lin cooked chicken soup in a variety of ways. Sometimes, she slow cooked chicken with dried roots, herbs, and fruit and made me drink the soup like a vitamin supplement. The soup was good for improving my immune system, she claimed. Other times, she made chicken soup as a bone broth base for meals, such as wonton noodle soup or tang yuan (glutinous rice dumplings). She would also cut up the cooked chicken and serve it alongside the meals.
I have always been intimidated by making chicken broth from scratch, but I thought it was finally time for Mama Lin to pass this culinary tradition on to me. Like most of her cooking, Mama Lin rarely follows an exact recipe, so it took a little effort to whittle down her cooking directions to a precise recipe. But we finally did it.
As we made the chicken soup together, Mama Lin reached for the jar where she keeps her supply of Knorr’s Chicken Powder. She told me that the chicken powder increases the umami flavor of the soup, so she always adds a little scoop.
Mama Lin also uses Knorr Chicken Powder in many of her other dishes, such as her turnip cake, sticky rice, and dumplings. Honestly, many Chinese aunties use chicken powder to boost the flavor of their food.
She had me taste the soup before and after the addition of the chicken powder. I was surprised by the difference that the chicken powder made. Knorr Chicken Powder made the soup more well-rounded in flavor.
When Mama Lin wanted to prepare a quick lunch for the family, she used the chicken broth as the base for a noodle soup with dumplings and vegetables. Developing this recipe reminds me of the weekends when I was young, watching I Love Lucy reruns while slurping on a bowl of Mama Lin’s chicken noodle soup.
Below is a basic recipe for Mama Lin’s chicken noodle soup as well as chicken wontons. I hope digging into this bowl of noodle soup will bring you all the warm and fuzzy feelings as it did for me!
HOW TO MAKE CHINESE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
TWO COOKING METHODS
Typically, Mama Lin makes chicken soup with a whole chicken that she buys freshly butchered from San Francisco’s Chinatown. Of course, I can’t easily buy a chicken from Chinatown anymore, so I bought a chicken between 2.5 to 3 pounds from the farmers market. Whole chickens at supermarkets tend to be at least 4 pounds, a little too big for this recipe.
If you can’t find or prefer not to cook with whole chickens, you can make the chicken soup with chicken breasts as well. Buy 2 pounds of bone-in chicken breasts; meat with bones intact makes better flavored broth. According to Mama Lin, you’ll also need to add a piece of pork loin when making broth with breast meat. You get more umami flavor that way. Whether you go the whole chicken or chicken breasts route, you’ll end up with a delicious broth.
PREPARING THE CHICKEN
Mama Lin starts by rubbing the whole chicken with salt and slices of ginger to remove any lingering odor in the meat. Then, she checks the cavity to see if there are any organs stored inside. If there are, she’ll save them for another dish. After rubbing the chicken with salt and ginger, she rinses the outside of the chicken as well as the cavity. There is no need to skin the chicken because smaller chickens tend to be leaner.
If you are cooking with chicken breasts, remove the skin from the chicken and trim away any excess fat. Then trim off any excess fat from the pork loin. You can also rub the chicken breast and pork loin with salt and slices of ginger, if you like. Rinse the meat after the salt rub.
GETTING RID OF IMPURITIES
When you make the broth with chopped up chicken pieces, you’ll notice that small bits of congealed blood or white foam that will float on top of broth as you cook the meat. These are impurities that you need to wash away. Otherwise, the broth will look very murky.
To do so, boil about a quart of water in a stock pot. Then, place the pieces of meat into the boiling water and blanch them for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway. Remove the meat from the pot and transfer them to a plate. Next, rinse the stockpot and scrub away any foam that’s stuck to the sides of the pot. Give the meat pieces a quick rinse too, in case there’s any foam stuck on them.
After washing away these impurities, you are now ready to make your stock. Washing away the impurities ensures that your soup broth runs clear.
COOKING TIME FOR THE BROTH
When it comes to the cooking time for the broth, you have two considerations. You can simmer the chicken for up to an hour to maximize the flavor of the broth. The slight issue with this method is that the chicken meat will toughen over time, especially if you are making the broth with chicken breasts.
Alternatively, you can remove the chicken soon after it is fully cooked. The flavor of the broth won’t be as fully developed, but the meat is more tender. When Mama Lin is making chicken broth with the whole chicken, she usually wants to serve the chicken as part of dinner. She’ll let the chicken simmer in water until it is fully cooked, about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken.
If you are using the chicken breast method of making the broth, you can take one of the breasts out earlier for serving and leave the other one in the pot for simmering the broth.
SEASONING THE CHICKEN BROTH
Once the broth is done, season it with Knorr Chicken Powder and salt. Because Mama Lin needs to watch her salt intake, she doesn’t like to add too much salt to her broth. She also thinks that you can taste the flavors of the chicken better when the broth is less salty. Use the amount of seasoning listed in the recipe as a guide and feel free to add more salt or Knorr Chicken Powder to suit your taste.
MAKING THE CHICKEN WONTONS
Take this dish a step further by making chicken wontons! I love adding wontons to this chicken noodle soup because it makes the entire dish a more well-rounded meal. In the recipe that follows, the wonton filling is chicken meat, shrimp, and a few herbs and spices. Mama Lin also added Knorr Chicken Powder to enhance the flavor of the filling.
The wontons are easy to wrap as well. Just add about 2 teaspoons of filling into the center of the wonton and wrap it up. There’s no proper way to fold these. I start by folding the wrapper into a triangle. Then, I gather up the bottom left and right corners and scrunch everything up. You don’t need water to seal the dumplings because the meat will hold everything together.
- Broth (Whole Chicken)
- chili oil
Broth (Whole Chicken)
- 1 small chicken (about 2 to 3 pounds)
- salt for cleaning the chicken (see note 1)
- 3-inch piece of ginger, sliced
- 4 quarts water
- 2 stalks of scallions
- 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Knorr Chicken Powder
Knorr Chicken Powder
- Broth (Chicken Breasts)
- Noodles & Vegetables
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 3 tablespoons chopped scallions
- 35 to 40 thin wonton wrappers
- Optional Add-Ins
Broth (Chicken Breasts)
- 2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts
- 8 ounces pork loin
- salt for cleaning the chicken
- 3-inch piece of ginger, sliced
- 4 quarts water, divided
- 2 stalks of scallions
- 5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Knorr Chicken Powder
Noodles & Vegetables
- water for cooking noodles and vegetables
- 8 to 10 ounces fresh wonton noodles
- 8 ounces baby bok choy, trimmed and sliced in half
- 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
- Chicken Wontons (optional)
Chicken Wontons (optional)
- 8 ounces ground chicken
- 3 ounces shrimp, chopped
- 1 teaspoon tapioca starch
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Knorr Chicken Powder
- sliced scallions
- chili oil
- soy sauce
Make the Broth (Whole Chicken Method)
- Add 4 quarts of water to a stock pot. Add the slices of ginger, leaving 5 or 6 for scrubbing the chicken. Bring the water to boil.
- While the water is boiling, prepare the chicken. Sprinkle salt over the outside of the chicken. Grab the remaining ginger slices and use them to rub the salt over the outside of the chicken. The rubbing helps to remove any lingering odor in the meat.
- Check the cavity of the chicken to see if there are any organs inside. If there are, remove and cook them for a separate dish or discard. Quickly rinse the outside and inside of the chicken.
- Once the water has boiled, add the chicken and the scallions. Cover the pot and bring the water to boil again.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the chicken cook for 10 minutes. Then, carefully turn the chicken over to the other side and cook for another 10 minutes. This ensures that the chicken cooks evenly.
- Add the salt and chicken powder to the broth and stir.
- If you want to serve the chicken meat while it’s still tender, remove the chicken from the pot. Check to see if the chicken is fully cooked by sticking a meat thermometer into the drumstick or thigh. If the temperature is at least 165ºF, the chicken is cooked. If instead you want to further develop the flavors of the broth, turn the heat to very low and simmer the chicken for an additional 30 to 40 minutes.
- Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the breast and/or thigh meat.
- Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning to your liking, adding more salt, if necessary. Remove the ginger slices and scallions from the broth.
Make the Broth (Chicken Breast Method)
- Bring 1 quart of water to boil in a pot.
- While the water is boiling prepare the meat. Trim off the skin and any excess fat from the chicken breast. Trim any fat off the pork loin. Salt the chicken breasts and pork loin. Grab 5 or 6 slices of ginger and use them to rub salt all over the meat. Rinse off the salt.
- Once the water has boiled, add the chicken breasts and pork loin, and let the meat cook for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway. You may see dark brown bits (from the blood) and white foam forming. These are impurities that you need to remove from your stock.
- Use tongs to remove the meat and give them a quick rinse. Drain all the water from the pot and clean it. Add another 3 quarts of water and the remaining slices of ginger to the pot and cover.
- Bring the water to boil again. Add the scallions, chicken, and pork and cook for 20 to 25 minutes on medium-low heat. If you want to serve the chicken meat while it is still tender, remove the chicken breasts and check the temperature of the meat to see if it has reached 165ºF. Otherwise, let the broth simmer on low for another 40 minutes and then remove the chicken from the broth.
- Season the broth with salt and Knorr Chicken Powder. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Remove the ginger slices and scallions from the broth.
- Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat. The pork loin is usually pretty tough, so discard it.
Cook the Noodles and Vegetables
- Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in another pot. Add the noodles, and cook them according to package instructions. Fresh, thin wonton noodles usually take 3 to 4 minutes to cook. Once cooked, use tongs or a spider spatula to remove the noodles from the pot. Bring the water to a boil again for cooking the vegetables.
- Rinse the noodles under cold water and drain. Divide the noodles into individual serving bowls.
- Add the baby bok choy to the boiling water and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the bok choy turns vibrant green. Remove the bok choy from the pot and divide them into the bowls with the noodles. Top with the julienned carrots. Divide the shredded chicken among the bowls.
- Ladle hot chicken soup over the noodles. Garnish with scallions. Serve with chili oil or soy sauce, if you like.
Make the Wontons (Optional)
- Add the ground chicken and chopped shrimp to a mixing bowl. Then, add the tapioca starch and water to the meat and stir for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the filling turns into a paste-like consistency. Next, add the salt, Knorr Chicken Powder, sesame oil, white pepper, ginger, and scallions. Stir to incorporate.
- To wrap the wontons, add about 2 teaspoons of filling to the center of a wonton wrapper. Use your fingers to scrunch up the wrapper so that it encloses the meat (see photos in the blog post for reference). Set the dumpling aside on a tray. You do not need water to seal the wontons because the meat should bind the wrapper together.
- Continue filling and wrapping all the wontons.
Cook the Wontons
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the wontons and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. The wontons will float to the top when they’re done cooking.
- Divide the wontons among the noodle soup bowls.
- Cleaning the chicken is optional. Mama Lin likes to clean the chicken first, so I have included the directions here.