Spicy Thai Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup

Lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce, rice noodles all come together in one of my favorite soups of the fall.

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Serves: 6

Spicy Thai Chicken Noodle Soup by Katie Workman/ themom100.comDo you go through food phases?  I definitely do.  This month Thai food is bubbling to the surface.  I made Pad Thai the other day and re-discovered rice noodles, which are noodles made from rice flour instead of wheat (gluten-free in most cases), and which cook up springy and slightly chewy.  You could use regular cooked noodles of any kind on this soup, from egg noodles to spaghetti or linguine that has been broken into shorter pieces.

Fish sauce is one of those ingredients most of us use with a bit trepidation at first, wary of the pungent odor, then once we find out what it can do to Thai, Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian dishes we wield the little bottle with gusto.   And that’s fine, give it a little drizzle, taste, see if you want more of that salty, rich umami-ness in your dish.

If you want to make this ahead (and like almost every soup in the world, it’s better when you do), make it though step 1, then add the cooked shredded chicken and put it in the fridge.  Reheat, then add the noodles and finish the soup.

Jack and I found this merely pleasantly spicy, while Charlie and Gary – while slurping it down with zeal and then having seconds – commented on how chili-hot it was.  Hold back on the amount of dried chili if you are just thinking mildly spicy is enough for you.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable, canola or peanut oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons minced lemon grass (see Note 1)
  • ½ teaspoon crushed Thai chilies or red pepper flakes
  • 6 cups less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 cups cooked 3-inch pieces of rice noodles (see Note 2)
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, or more to taste
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • ½ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional, or to serve)

1. Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil, and the onion, and sauté for 4 minutes until tender. Add the garlic, ginger and lemon grass sauté for 1 minute until you can smell the fragrance.  Add the crushed chili, then pour in the broth and tomatoes, turn the heat to high, and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 5 minutes. 

2. Stir in the chicken and rice noodles and return to a simmer. Add the spinach and the fish sauce, simmer for one more minute, then add the lime juice and cilantro (if using) and serve in shallow bowls.

Note 1

You can use fresh lemon grass if you can find it, but you can also use lemon grass paste in a tube, or minced lemongrass, available in jars at specialty and Asian markets.

Note 2

To cook rice noodles, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Break the noodles into 3-inch pieces (just for this recipe). Remove the pot from the heat, add the rice noodles and stir frequently for 3 to 5 minutes until they are fairly pliable, but not soft.  Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.  There are other methods, but this is a good one – check your noodle package for alternative directions.

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