Chicken Noodle Soup, also sometimes called a Chicken Stew, is a very popular dish made from egg noodles (mostly) and chicken. The preparation is popular for its light and pleasing taste and a range of health benefits that have been associated with it. In addition, the soup is a comfort food and a popular snack as well. In various countries, Chicken Noodle Soups are a very filling and wholesome preparation and not just a part of the main course, but a whole main course by themselves.
While it is true that Chicken Noodle Soups have a very long history that dates back to the ancient times, there are disputes over the exact region of origin. While some scholars trace the origin of the soup back to the Western world, there are many who continue to insist that like most other noodle soups, chicken noodle soups are also an Asian, particularly Chinese, invention. It is largely believed that chicken soups were a result of the poor and less-fortunate having access to only tough and stringy parts of hens (better meat was for those who could afford it, i.e., the very wealthy of the society) and this led to the invention of the dish. The poor added all that they possibly could to make the dish richer and more filling. Once egg noodles became popular, these became an important part of soups and thus the recipe.
Common Ingredients Used in the Preparation of Chicken Noodle Soups
On a very basic level, a Chicken Noodle Soup is made only with egg noodles, chicken parts and a light chicken broth. Over the years, however, the dish has evolved a lot, and today, there are over a hundred recipes for this single preparation. Each region of the world has more than one recipe for the soup and this makes it one of the most well-known and widely prepared dishes of the world.
Chicken is sometimes used in combination with other meats like fish, seafood, pork and beef; vegetables are commonly added to make the dish more flavorful and filling. Cabbage, carrot, onion, tomato, scallion, shallot, beans, peas and spinach, to name a few, are commonly added to the soup along with the chicken and noodles. The noodles used in preparation also differ from one recipe to another. While egg noodles are the most common, spaghetti, pasta, plain noodles, flat noodles, etc., are also used in the soups.
Chicken bouillon, cornflower, corns, gelatin are added to make a thick soup; herbs and spices give aroma and taste to a preparation that is traditionally bland.
Preparation Overview of Chicken Noodle Soups
A Chicken Noodle Soup is not a very difficult preparation, although it could take about an hour to make 3 to 4 average-sized servings. This takes the soup out of the 'quick cooking snack' category that most soups are placed in. Traditionally slow cooked for maximum taste, the dish can be a tricky preparation if a lot of ingredients are being used. While traditionalists believe in slow cooking the dish, modern day chefs, in the interest of saving time, cook the soups over hot plates and stoves and this drastically reduces the cooking time.
To make the soups, the ingredients are all cleaned, chopped, rinsed, diced, sliced, etc., as required. The vegetables and meats being used are sautéed in butter or oil for a few minutes. All the ingredients are then mixed together in a large metal pot (most common cooking pot, but others can be used) and placed over direct heat. The soup is cooked till it has reached the desired level of doneness.
Popular Variations of the Basic Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe
There are various versions of the basic Chicken Noodle Soup. Each country or region of the world has its own set of recipes, making the preparation very versatile.
Korean Version - The Baeksuk soup is made with chicken, noodles, dried jujube fruits, rice, ginger, garlic, ginseng, etc. Some Korean regions, however, make Barksuk without any noodles.
American and Canadian Version - In the US and Canada, Chicken Noodle Soups are commonly made at home and are also one of the largest selling commercial products. Almost all vegetables, noodles, meats, etc., are used as ingredients.
Asian Version - Across Asia, particularly in China and Japan, Chicken Noodle Soups are one of the most important culinary preparations and much more than just a starter or appetizer. The soups are made with a wide range of ingredients and mostly served as a main dish.
Thai Version - The curried version of the soup is very popular in Thailand and its popularity has now spread to other parts of the world as well. Bay of Bengal Curry Paste (a paste made by mixing together various Indian and Thai spices) gives the soup its unique taste.
Vietnamese Version - The Chicken Noodle Soup recipe mostly followed in Vietnam calls for the use of udon noodles (thick Japanese noodles made from wheat).
Health Benefits of Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Soups are associated with a range of health benefits and Chicken Noodle Soups have also been touted as a health dish for centuries. It is believed that everyday ailments like common cold, flu, fever and fatigue are effectively fought by the dish and the soup is one of the best known energy foods. It is a very healthy preparation and used as a diet food after making a few necessary modifications in the traditional recipes. There is, however, no scientific evidence to back the health benefits associated with the soups.
Chicken Noodle Soup is considered a very healthy and nutritious preparation. Even if a recipe calls for the use of essentially ‘unhealthy’ ingredients, the soup is still pegged as healthy mainly because of the fact that simmering of meats and bones greatly increases the nutritional value of a preparation.