Remember Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak? It’s a wee sized book that’s part of his Nutshell Collection, which includes Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup with Rice, One Was Johnny, and Pierre.
I remember my elementary school librarian reading Chicken Soup with Rice to our class and listening to the cassette tape of Carole King singing the story. While I don’t remember the librarian’s name, I do remember that she had an identical twin and they read us Miss Nelson’s Missing by James Marshall when she came to visit.
Every time I eat chicken soup I always think about that book, and the song gets stuck in my head for the rest of the day. When I say chicken soup I’m referring to 영계백숙 Young Gye BaekSook, the Korean version which is actually made with Cornish game hen.
Whenever it’s cold outside or I feel like warm comfort food, I ask my mother to make it. It was pretty foggy last week and cold enough for me to seek out long-sleeved PJs; Chicken soup seemed to be appropriate. The oddity of it is that it’s traditionally eaten in the summer. When I think of chicken soup it’s all about snow and warm blankets or being ill.
Here’s the recipe that I pried out of my mother, not because it’s a big secret but because she was otherwise occupied and wasn’t paying much attention! Ahem. Anyway, here are the directions for her version. I’m sure there are all kinds of variations out there. Since she cooks from memory, like most Asian mothers, the measurements are approximations.
Ingredients: Cornish Game Hen, Garlic, Green Onion, Salt and Pepper.
Directions: Buy a Cornish game hen – which is almost always sold frozen. They are readily available at Asian markets if you can’t find it at your supermarket. Fully defrost before cooking. Skin the little chicken, remove any excess fat and take out the giblets.
In a medium-sized pot put in the naked chicken with a clove of garlic. Fill the pot with water until it covers a little more than the chicken. Boil for thirty minutes and check the meat for doneness. It takes between 30 – 40 minutes to cook.
Add chopped green onions and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice. Personally, I like to put the cooked rice in my soup and turn it into chicken soup with rice.
Since I like the white meat, my mother leaves it for the soup and separates out the dark meat. Apparently it’s common to take the cooked meat, dip it in salt and eat it like that.
The best part of this soup is that it’s simple and healthy because additional oils or fat isn’t added to the soup. An added bonus is that it doesn’t have cooked carrots! Don’t get me wrong, I love carrots but they must be raw or blended into something else. I’m that person who unabashedly fishes out the pieces of cooked carrots from soups and stews.