Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chao Ga :: Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Chicken

It's officially Tết, or the Lunar New Year, so again, Happy New Year! I had a lot of ambitious dreams of making some traditional Tết treats, like Banh Chung and Thit Kho but decided to go with something much simpler. We're talking 2-ingredients simple. Rice and water. That's all you need. Of course, you can fancy it up with toppings and flavorings, but at the core, it's just boiled rice and water. It's simple, healthy and perfect cold or sick food. In our house, when we were feeling under the weather, we got a steaming hot bowl of gingery, peppery Chao Ga instead of Chicken Noodle Soup. 

I've made this a few times in Japan and I think I've finally worked out all the toppings and flavorings to my liking. So here it is: 

Chao Ga :: Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Chicken

1 cup of rice, jasmine or japanese short grain
8 cups of water 
2 inch piece of peeled ginger thickly sliced 
1 bunch of scallions chopped in 1 inch pieces, whites only 
8 whole black peppercorns 

1. Put everything in a large pot. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 1 hour. Stir occasionally and scrape rice from the bottom of the pan. 

1 chicken breast 
1 inch knob of ginger, sliced 

1. Poach the chicken breast in water with the ginger until done. Set chicken aside to cool. 
2. When the chicken has cooled, use two forks to shred into bite sized pieces. 

Customize your own bowl with different toppings. I put the chicken on top of a small bowl of soup and splash some fish sauce on the chicken. Then flavor the soup with Maggi Sauce. It also gets a healthy sprinkling of chopped green onions. One of my favorite toppings when I was little was something I called "carpet" which is a really salty dried pork that is then shredded (thịt chà bông). It looks like a giant jar of dog hair but it is delicious, especially in chao. 

In Japan, rice porridge soup is called okayu and is eaten with sesame seeds, mushrooms or umeboshi, pickled plums. In Hong Kong, congee is a popular breakfast meal filled with meat, fresh green veggies and greasy donuts. I'm sure other Asian countries have their take on chao and I'm sure that it's a sentimental dish for everyone since it can be topped and mixed with just about anything. 


  1. Hello! I just recently stumbled upon your blog, and I'd like to take the chance to tell you that I LOVE IT! I showed it to one of my friends, and she loves it too. I'm a high schooler in the Bay Area, and I hope to live in Japan some day. I love baking too (I can't cook, but I'm working on it), so reading your blog is really fun! Thank you for writing this!

  2. Hi Mara! Thanks for stopping by! I'm always happy to hear that people other than my very kind friends read the posts. And a fellow Bay Arean no less. Japan is great and I'll be sure to expose a little more than just the food in future posts (^_^)v