There are few things more magical than a big bowl of chicken soup — so simple and humble, yet also so comforting and great at making you feel better if you’re even a little under the weather. Many cultures around the world have their own special version of the chicken soup, from chicken and noodles, to chicken and dumplings, to chicken and a whole bagful of ingredients.
So, why the fuss about chicken soup? Well, chicken itself is a universally versatile meat: It’s easier to get your hands on a chicken (depending on where you are in the world) than almost any other meat. Going back as far as 10,000 years, chickens played a role in man’s early diet. If legend is to be believed, their existence even provided the required sustenance for soldiers during the conquest of the early Roman Empire.
Chicken is so versatile that its journey to the modern-day dinner plates in the homes of today is easy to understand… it’s easy to prepare, has an adaptable flavor that can be paired with any number of ingredients for a tasty dish or simply eaten solo, and it’s incredibly filling
Of all the chicken dishes though, chicken soup is by far one the most common across cultures throughout the world. The reputed healing powers of a bowl of chicken soup are the stuff of legend — and it’s a science too: Studies have shown that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that help cold symptoms. In addition, many of the ingredients used in a chicken soup are packed full of vitamins and minerals (think onions, carrots, greens, parsley, ginger, and garlic), even chicken stock (made from boiled chicken bones) is full of nutrients that are good for you.
In Greece, people enjoy avgolemono, a slightly creamy, lemon-flavored soup with a drop of cream with chicken in the middle. It’s so delicious, versatile, and popular that the Greeks eat it year-round, either piping hot in the winter or chilled in the summer. Some countries often add chunks of shredded chicken to local soup favorites for their version of a chicken soup dish, like tom khan kai in Thailand, or chicken udon in Japan. In Asia, the popular congee (a dish that’s more rice porridge than traditional soup, but is enjoyed in much the same way) is often eaten with added ingredients like chicken for a heartier meal.
Granted, the creamy chicken soups are more fattening than the others (though they are delicious), so if you’re watching your health you should enjoy that variety in moderation. So many cultures around the world enjoy adding their local flavors and history to their version of this incredible dish… read on to find out more about the chicken soups around the world.
Southern-style Chicken & Dumplings
The U.S. take on chicken soup comes in many varied options, from chicken noodle soup to just plain spicy chicken broth with ginger and mint (particularly wonderful when you’ve been under the weather), but a childhood favorite across the nations is arguably creamy chicken and dumplings. Thick and creamy with an aromatic and heavy broth, tons of cream, and great big chunks of juicy chicken, everyone and their mom has their own favorite way of making it.
Congee/ Jook — Asia/China
This mushy, soupy rice porridge is common in Asia and enjoyed by everyone from infants to the elderly right across the subcontinent in various forms from China to India. Its palatable texture is easy to adapt to different tastes and for different flavors and it’s common to mix it with other ingredients like chicken for a heartier, more comforting meal.
Serusha Govender is The Daily Meal's Travel Editor. Follow her on Twitter @SerushaGovender