After Christmas, we retired to the beach for a few days to relax and “detox” from all the holiday food. We spent three days in complete relaxation, reading books and catching up with one another. Our menu for the three days was almost exclusively pinoy comfort food favorites, with the exception of a paella (which I consider almost pinoy in our household). On the first evening, in breezy, balmy perfect beach weather, we made a huge pot of chicken sotanghon soup, enough for roughly 20 people — our small immediate family, all the crew and their immediate families. This was served with some asian fried chicken cooked in Zubulard, but I didn’t have much of the latter, I mostly enjoyed the soup.
Before leaving for the beach, we decided this was going to be a really easy, relaxed holiday, with minimal cooking, so we prepared a lot of stuff in advance, spending minimal time at the beach to assemble or finish dishes. The day after Christmas we made some classic chicken stock, lots of chicken and bones and veggies slow-cooked over a low flame for some 4-5 hours. We added a ham bone because we had it, so this was actually a fragrant chicken/ham stock. This flavorful broth is the key to a superb chicken sotanghon soup. I realize there are a thousand and one versions of this simple soup, but follow some of the guidelines outlined in this post (and a more detailed recipe I published before, here) and you are on your way to a new family favorite recipe for sure.
A layer of chicken fat rises to the top of your stock after an overnight rest in the fridge; many would throw this out, but I took half of this and used it to saute the garlic, onions and carrots until sweet. This extra step of sauteing adds flavor to the final soup, rather than just boiling the veggies with the stock. An abundance of carrots made the broth a little more yellow orange than usual.
Add generous amounts of shredded chicken and in this case a salty country ham, then pre-soaked sotanghon noodles (so they don’t completely sop up the broth, making it more of a noodle dish than a soup) and cook until just done. Add vegetables a minute or two before turning off the heat. Season with patis, salt and pepper to taste, but do not overseason. I like to serve this with patis, kalamansi, dayap, soy sauce and pepper so that folks can season it as much or as little as they prefer.
We were at the beach and with limited ingredients, but you could add say chopped green onions, or other herbs to add color and visual interest. Essentially, this is simply comfort in a bowl. I am not sure what chicken soup has as a universal appeal, but all over the world there seems to be a reasonably good proxy for this restorative favorite.
These days, when we return from a long trip abroad and after a day in transit, we arrive home at midnight and no longer look for adobo or bistek tagalog and rice; instead, we seek a version of this heartwarming chicken sotanghon soup as a light meal before settling down to much needed sleep.