Chicken Broth

This is the foundation of nearly every soup in Chinese cuisine. It is also used in small quantities to flavor many dishes and as the basis of countless made-in-the-wok sauces. We dissolve cornstarch in a little cool chicken broth instead of water when we want to thicken sauces so that the taste of the sauce is not diluted. Unlike Western stocks, which are flavored with vegetables and seasonings, Chinese broth aims for pure chicken seasoned only with a little ginger and scallion. Making your own stock requires very little effort; once the initial skimming is complete, the broth simmers unattended for hours. Freeze the finished broth in small containers to be heated in a saucepan or wok whenever you need it. Canned broth may be substituted in a pinch, but the flavor of homemade broth is much superior.

Method

  1. Use one or two whole chickens, bones from chicken carcasses, or backs and wings purchased from the poultry market. Use a pot large enough to accommodate them all without being more than three-fourths full.

  2. Pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken bones completely. Bring the liquid to a simmer.

  3. As the broth heats, a scum rises to the surface. Skim it off periodically. From time to time add a little cold water to stop it from boiling and to bring more scum to the surface. Boiling binds the scum to the liquid and makes the broth cloudy.

  4. After about 15 minutes, the scum stops appearing and white foam begins to appear. Now add 3 or 4 slices of unpeeled fresh ginger root and 3 or 4 scallions, cut into thirds. Salt to taste. Let the broth continue to simmer, partially covered, for at least 2 hours, preferably for 4 to 5 hours. Strain it through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. When it has cooled sufficiently, the fat rises to the surface and can be skimmed off. To make a richer broth, reduce the degreased broth slowly by half the amount.

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