By Sylvie Rowand / Photography by Molly McDonald Peterson
Inspired by Vietnamese chao soup—clear broth and rice—this soup combines carrots and onion with cilantro and parsley, two herbs that grow well throughout the winter for us, as well as easy-to-find ginger, lime, and fish sauce. I use wheat berries which several farms grow in the area instead of the traditional rice (use rice if you have gluten allergies). With alreadycooked leftover wheat berries, this becomes a very fast dish. You may also use leftover cooked chicken instead of the raw chicken legs. It’s fun to let guests season their own bowls with a selection of chunky hot sauce, toasted chopped peanuts, lime wedges, and additional cilantro leaves.
SERVES 6 AS A MAIN DISH
⅓ cup wheat berries
6 cups good-quality chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 pound boneless skinless chicken legs
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 large garlic cloves, green germ removed (if any), minced
1 piece of ginger, about 1 inch long, peeled & minced
4 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1 medium onion, peeled and minced (about the same volume as carrots)
2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped (green & white parts)
1 handful of cilantro leaves (or flat parsley or a combination)
1 juicy lime (optional)
Salt to taste
In a large pot, cook wheat berries in broth until almost cooked through, about 40 minutes (they do not get as soft as rice but always have a little crunch).
Meanwhile, mash or blend garlic and ginger into a paste. Cut chicken into thin, bite-size slivers and mix with fish sauce. Set aside.
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. Add the carrots and onion and sauté, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add to the wheat berries.
Add remaining oil to the skillet, add chicken and any liquid and sauté, stirring often until chicken is almost cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic-ginger paste and green onions and stir-fry quickly until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Remove from heat and add to wheat berries. Deglaze the pan with a small amount of water and add this to the soup, making sure to scrape the skillet well. Repeat if necessary to get as much of the flavors left from sautéing the chicken and vegetables as possible.
Simmer soup for 15 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. Add fresh herbs. Ladle into bowls and squeeze a little lime juice onto each bowl.
Sylvie Rowand of Washington, Va., grows, forages, and preserves food; cooks for others and teaches the pleasures of growing your own food and eating seasonally through workshops and her blog, www.laughingduckgardens.com.