I don’t know about you but when I have a sniffling human in the house, I make the only remedy I know – my grandma’s chicken bone soup. It’s magical and has a similar effect to a hug from your mum. This is my version of my grandma’s chicken soup and it is my chicken soup for the soul.
To make this magical concoction, my grandmother used to save bits of chicken she did not use for curries like the wing tips, necks and feet (minus their talons) to make an incredibly hearty broth. She called it ‘Kozhi Kallu Soupu’, literally Chicken Leg Soup. Old hen bones are normally used for bone broths in Asia as they have a sweeter flavour and older chickens have stronger bones which in turn makes more flavourful broth. However, if you’re unable to get them, any good quality, free-range chicken bones also do the job.
My favourite part of eating this broth when I was a kid was peeling off the skin from the chicken feet and munching on it. Asians love eating chicken feet as they are high in collagen which helps keep their skin looking firmer and more youthful. Eating chicken feet may sound gross but they have a gelatinous texture and are very tasty, especially when braised in soy sauce like those in dim sum restaurants. To prepare chicken feet for cooking, briefly blanch them in very hot water and remove their yellowish membrane. Then, using a good cleaver or large knife, chop off the talons and use them to flavour broths and soups.
Though bone broths have just gained popularity in the West, many eastern cultures have made bone broths as a health food for many centuries. Bone broths contain valuable minerals in the form that your body can easily absorb and they are known to inhibit infection caused by cold and flu viruses. Any part of the animal attached to a bone can be used to make the broth and you can add any seasoning to enhance its flavour. Making bone broth is also a way of making sure nothing goes to waste and every part of the animal is used. I freeze my chicken bone scraps and use them when I need to make soups and broths. You can also freeze your cooked broth for months. If you intend to freeze your broth, add the vegetables only when you reheat your frozen soup. And of course, this broth can be easily made in your slow-cooker. Set your temperature on ‘low’ and simmer overnight after adding all the ingredients in step 4.
Enjoy your slow-cooked, healthy, warm bowl of chicken bone broth !
My Gran's Chicken Bone Broth (Aatha's Kozhi Ellumbu Soupu
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 star anise
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, about 8-10
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 3 cloves
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 large bay leaf
- 1 1/2 cups thickly sliced shallots/red onions
- 1 whole bulb of garlic, crushed with skins on
- 1 1/2 inch ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1-2 lemongrass, bruised
- 2 large, very ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 old hen carcasses (backbone, neck and feet with talons chopped off)
- 1 small free-range skinless chicken, cut into about 10 medium-sized pieces (optional)
- 1.5 – 2 litres water
- 1-2 medium carrots, sliced thick (optional)
- 1 large potato, cut into medium-sized chunks (optional)
- chopped chinese celery
- chopped spring onions/scallions
- chopped coriander stems and leaves
- fried shallots
- In a large stockpot, heat cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add whole spices – star anises, black peppercorns, cardamoms, cloves, fennel seeds and bay leaf and sauté till aromatic.
- Add sliced shallots/onions, grated ginger and crushed garlic and sauté till they soften. Add a pinch of salt to prevent the onions from burning.
- Add a ground spices – coriander and turmeric powders, bruised lemongrass and quartered tomatoes with a splash of hot water and sauté for about 1 minute or until tomatoes start to soften.
- Reduce heat to low and add water, chicken carcass pieces, cut chicken pieces (if using), cut carrot and potato into pot. Add enough water to just submerge chicken and vegetables. Cover pot and simmer for about 1 to 1.5 hours till chicken meat is fully cooked.
- Garnish soup and serve with crusty bread, steamed rice or just sip it on its own.