An umami-rich, all-in-one dish made with simple ingredients, Chinese chicken noodle soup is easy to make and tastes delectable. This recipe also includes customizing ideas.
Now and then I crave a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a dish my parents often made for my brother and me during school lunch breaks (we used to walk home at noon for a quick lunch and nap before returning to school at 2 pm). I enjoy its simplicity and soothing nature to this day.
A classic dish made easy
A bowl of Chinese chicken noodle soup (Jī Tāng Miàn/鸡汤面) typically consists of clear broth, thin wheat noodles, shredded chicken, and a few strands of leafy greens. Unlike many flavor-bursting dishes on my blog, this dish is clean, light and calming.
My parents used to cook a whole chicken the night before and then use some of the broth and meat for noodle soup and leftovers for other meals. Today’s recipe is based on the traditional method but with a simpler approach and additional mushrooms for extra flavor.
It takes around 40 minutes from start to finish if you organize the procedure well (excluding the passive soaking time). Read on and give it a try!
To ensure the best taste, follow these tips:
- Choose skin on and bone in chicken legs/thighs.
- Use shiitake mushrooms to boost the umami taste.
- Season the broth lightly. Avoid overpowering condiments.
- Do not cook the noodles in the broth.
Ingredients & substitutes
Here are the ingredients you need for this noodle soup recipe:
Chicken legs or thighs make the tastiest chicken broth with their skin on and bones in (to be discarded after cooking). Alternatively, follow the traditional method and use a whole chicken instead. Chicken breasts are not an ideal choice but can be used as a substitute if you’re on a lean meat diet.
Dried shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of rich fragrance and umami taste. Read my shiitake guide to learn more about this magic ingredient. If you have difficulty sourcing them, use fresh shiitake or other types of mushrooms to substitute.
Most often I use thin, plain wheat noodles for chicken noodle soup. But other types of noodles work well for this recipe too, such as egg noodles, ramen noodles, udon noodles, thin/flat rice noodles, etc.
Shop-bought dried noodles (known as Guà Miàn/挂面 in Chinese) are a quick solution. Make fresh ones from scratch if you’d like to go the extra mile (Try my recipes for Easy Knife-Cut Noodles, Hand-Pulled Noodles, and Ramen Noodles).
Apart from protein and carbohydrates, you’d need some vegetables too. Leafy greens, such as bok choy, spinach, and Chinese broccoli, are classic choices. If using vegetables like carrots, daikon, winter melon, etc, slice them thinly and cook in the chicken broth (instead of blanching with the noodles).
Aromatics & seasonings
For chicken broth, ginger, scallions (green onions/spring onions), and Shaoxing rice wine are commonly used to add aroma and eliminate the gamey taste of the meat.
Use simple seasonings that don’t overpower the natural taste of the broth. Basic Chinese pantry condiments like light soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil, and salt are all you need. Optionally, add a dash of homemade chili oil for an extra kick on the palate.
Once you’ve gathered all the above ingredients, follow these simple steps to cook:
Step 1: Rehydrate the mushrooms
Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in water until they become soft and plump (overnight or at least 4 hours). Remember not to dump the water as it will be used in the next step.
Step 2: Simmer the chicken
Put the chicken legs (or thighs) in a pot. Add the rehydrated mushrooms along with the soaking water from step 1 (do it gently and discard any residue at the bottom of the bowl).
Bring it to a full boil. Use a spoon to skim off any foam appearing on the surface. Add Shaoxing rice wine, ginger, and the white part of the scallions (keep the green part for garnishing).
Turn the heat to the lowest and cover the pot with a lid. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes. Pierce the thickest part of the chicken with a chopstick. If it goes in without much resistance, it’s done.
Step 3: Season the broth
Take out the chicken pieces to cool on a plate. Remove the ginger and scallions. Season the broth with light soy sauce, salt, white pepper, and sesame oil. Taste and adjust.
Step 4: Shred the chicken
Pull off the chicken skin and discard. Tear the meat off the bones. Break it into bite-sized shreds. Set aside.
Step 5: Cook the noodles
Bring plenty of water to a full boil in a pot. Add noodles to cook. Depending on the noodle type, the time required varies. Take out one strand to check its doneness.
At the very end, add the leafy green of your choice. Blanch for about 20 seconds. Drain both the noodles and the vegetables. Rinse briefly under running water if your noodles appear a little mushy on the surface (this step is important when using rice noodles).
Step 6: Assemble the dish
Divide the noodles and vegetables into serving bowls. Pour the broth and mushrooms over. Top with shredded chicken and finely chopped scallion greens. Spice it up with chili oil if you wish.
🛎 Use Instant Pot (or pressure cooker): To speed up the cooking process and save energy, you may use an instant pot or stove top pressure cooker. Follow the same instructions and cook the chicken for 10 minutes on high pressure. Allow a natural release before opening the lid.
This is an ideal recipe to be made in advance. Here are my tips:
- Cook a large batch of chicken broth using either chicken legs/thighs or a whole chicken.
- Shred the chicken meat once cool enough to touch. Then put it back in the broth.
- Divide into equal portions in airtight containers and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Defrost the portion you need in the fridge then heat until piping hot. Add seasonings then assemble with freshly cooked noodles and vegetables.
Depending on what’s available in your kitchen, you may alter this recipe in these ways:
- Use ready-to-use chicken broth and add the same set of seasonings (Skip the salt and reduce soy sauce quantity if the broth is already salted). Use boiled eggs or slices of tofu as toppings as protein substitutes.
- Tear the meat off a leftover roast chicken or smoked chicken. Then use the carcass to make the broth. Just like how I use Christmas dinner leftovers to assemble Turkey Noodles Soup.
Other classic soups
Looking for more comforting soup recipes? Check out these classic examples:
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Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup (鸡汤面)
BEFORE YOU START
- 8 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms - see note 1
- 6 cups water
- 2 chicken legs - or 4 chicken thighs (skin on & bone in)
- 2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
- 4 slices ginger
- 2 stalks scallions - separate the white and green parts
- 2 teaspoon light soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
- 4 portions noodles - see note 2
- 2 heads bok choy - or other leafy greens
- Chili oil - optional
- Put dried shiitake mushrooms in a large bowl. Pour in 6 cups (1400ml) of water. Leave to soak overnight (or at least 4 hours).
- Put the chicken legs (or thighs) into a pot. Add the rehydrated mushrooms, along with the soaking water (leave out any residue at the bottom of the bowl). Bring to a full boil. Skim off any foam floating on the surface.
- Add Shaoxing rice wine, ginger, and the white part of the scallions. Turn the heat to the lowest. Cover the pot with a tight lid. Leave to gently simmer for 30 minutes or so until the meat becomes very tender. You may speed up this process using an Instant Pot or pressure cooker (see note 3).
- Transfer the chicken legs to a plate to cool. Discard the ginger and scallions. Add light soy sauce, salt, white pepper, and sesame oil to the broth. Taste to adjust if necessary.
- Once the chicken is cool to touch, remove the skin and tear the meat into bite-sized shreds.
- In a separate pot, bring plenty of water to a full boil. Cook the noodles over medium-high heat until fully cooked. At the very end of this process, add bok choy for a quick blanch (20 seconds).
- Drain the noodles and bok choy. Place them into 4 serving bowls. Add the broth and mushrooms. Top with the shredded chicken and the green part of the scallions (finely chopped). Optionally, drizzle some chili oil over.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.