Fish sauce and other soup ingredients
#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 45: Fish sauce gives chicken soup a salty soul

Asian Carrot and Mushroom Noodle Soup

Chicken soup has long been my comfort food when I’m feeling out-of-sorts, whether it’s a headache or just dehydrated after a long run on a warm day. I even keep packages of horrifying Lipton’s chicken noodle soup (its atomic-yellow broth can stain a stainless steel pot) on hand for dire emergencies.

When I returned from a six-day visit with Erin in Ottawa, I wasn’t having an emergency. But I think I was experiencing a sugar hangover.

See, my daughter is just the sweetest thing in every way but mostly when it comes to edibles. She procrasti-bakes. She has a ready supply of “purse candy.” Most afternoons involve a coffee shop visit to order an extra-large, holy crapiatto. Or something like that.

And for one wonderful week in Ottawa, I embraced it all, right down to Beavertails and hot chocolate at the canal. When I got home, I needed bigger pants — and my body was craving comfort food.

The refrigerator was basically empty — poor Dan, I think this project has him worried about making any sudden moves in the kitchen — but there is always something that can be turned into soup. I hit the books and located a never-before-tried Anne Lindsay recipe for Asian Carrot and Mushroom Soup.

Extra bonus: it called for fish sauce, one of the entries on the list we made during the original kitchen castoffs brainstorming session.

I think I owe that little bottle an apology.

Salty, rich and typically made from anchovies that have been fermented in sea salt, fish sauce is the Neptune of kitchen condiments. It packs a lot of flavour (and an exceptionally high amount of sodium), so a little goes a long way. It was the perfect antidote to my raised blood sugar levels.

And it does not deserve to be lumped in with, you know, lentils.

This soup is quick and easy to make. I was eating within an hour of getting started and that includes time spent futzing about with lights and cameras during the mandatory photo sessions.

Almost immediately, I started to feel my body chemistry settle down. And that is comfort, indeed.

Kitchen castoff used

Fish sauce

Asian Carrot and Mushroom Noodle Soup
Asian Carrot and Mushroom Noodle Soup. Fish sauce lends a salty, rich flavour to Thai and Asian dishes

This is how we did it

Tip: To get perfect matchstick sized slices of chicken, slice while the breast is still mostly frozen. 


  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp gingerroot, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup mushrooms, cut in thick slices
  • ¾ cup carrots, in thin slices
  • 2 cups each water and chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
  • 2 tsp each of fish sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil
  • 2 oz noodles. You can use egg noodles, small pasta, rice stick noodles or vermicelli
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • ¾ cup trimmed snow peas, cut in half
  • 3 tbsp cilantro


Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, onions and red pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Then add the mushrooms and carrots and cook, stirring, for another five minutes or so.

Add the stock, water, lime juice, fish sauce, soy and sesame oil. Bring to boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Stir in the chicken and noodles that require longer cooking time (e.g., pasta or egg noodles). Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes.

Add the snow peas and quick-cooking noodles (e.g. rice or bean thread sticks or vermicelli), cook for another two minutes. Top with cilantro and serve.

Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.

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