Five-Spice Chicken Soup
The formula for aromatic five-spice powder varies depending on the manufacturer, but it usually contains cloves, star anise, fennel, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and sometimes ginger. Here, it seasons a Southeast Asia–inspired soup that is topped with crunchy bean sprouts and fresh herbs after a 5-hour stint in a slow cooker.
- 2 lb. (1 kg) skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp. five-spice powder
- 2 Tbs. peanut oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 5 1⁄2 cups (44 fl. oz./1.4 l) chicken broth
- Two 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces fresh ginger, peeled
- 1⁄4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) soy sauce
- 1⁄4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) Asian fish sauce
- 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
- 1⁄4 lb. (125 g) rice stick noodles
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup (3 oz./90 g) bean sprouts
- 1⁄2 to 1 small serrano or jalapeño chile, seeded and thinly sliced
- Lime wedges for serving
Pat the chicken dry and season generously on all sides with salt and pepper and the five-spice powder. In a large, heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. When the oil is hot, working in batches to avoid crowding, add the chicken and sear, turning as needed, until golden brown, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain briefly, then transfer to a slow cooker.
Add the onion to the fry pan and sauté over medium-high heat until golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Pour in 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) of the stock and stir to dislodge any browned bits on the pan bottom. Transfer the contents of the pan to the slow cooker. Stir in the remaining 4 1⁄2 cups (36 fl. oz./1.1 l) of the stock, the ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce and vinegar. Cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 5 hours. The chicken should be very tender.
About 10 minutes before the soup is ready, place the noodles in a bowl with hot water to cover generously to rehydrate.
Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove and discard the ginger. Remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones. Using 2 forks, shred the meat. Return the chicken meat to the soup. Drain the noodles and stir into the soup. Warm through for about 2 minutes on high.
Ladle the soup into warm shallow bowls, distributing the chicken evenly. Scatter the basil, cilantro, bean sprouts and chile over the top and arrange the lime wedges alongside. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2010)