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Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup with Star Anise, Sprouts & Ginger

Chinese chicken noodle soup with Star Anise, Sprouts and Ginger 

I did business in Japan for a number of years in the 80's. The food was great, of course – the Japanese are food-obsessed and demand high quality at every meal. When I was on the go in Tokyo one of my favorite quick lunches was noodle soup. This dish, delivered to offices by bicycle or served in crowded noodle shops, fuels millions of workers every day in Tokyo. If you've been there you know that master noodle-broth makers are revered, and that the quality and provenence of their noodles is extremely important to Japanese noodle-eaters. 

I've also been studying Chinese cooking for many years, guided mostly by my taste buds – when I lived a few blocks from Boston's bustling Chinatown – and by Irene Quo's "The Key to Chinese Cooking." This soup is my version of a melding of the simple Japanese udon soup with typical Chinese flavors. 

Chinese Chicken Noodle Soup with Star Anise, Sprouts & Ginger

Print recipe only.

Serves 4


  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, smashed with the side of a knife
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed Szechuan pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1'' piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 ounces soba noodles (substitute fettucine)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoons rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 3 ounces fresh spinach or other greens, chopped
  • 3 ounces fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cooked, cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds (optional garnish) 


1. Place the broth in a large pot and add the star anise, lemongrass, garlic, Szechuan pepper, onion, ginger, and black peppercorns. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. 

2. Strain the broth and return to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the pasta. Stir a minute until the pasta has softened and the strands are separated. Cook on high heat until al dente, about 8 - 10 minutes. Remove the pasta with tongs to a bowl and keep warm.

3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil and vinegar to the broth and simmer for 2 minutes. If necessary correct the seasoning with salt, fresh ground black pepper or hot sauce. 

4. Stir in the spinach and sprouts and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring. 

5. Place the chicken in a sieve and submerge briefly in the broth to warm. Remove to a side plate. 

To serve, place a knot of pasta in each serving bowl with tongs. With the tongs, add a portion of the spinach and sprouts to each dish. Spoon broth into each dish, then top with chicken pieces. If desired, garnish with toasted sesame seeds. 

Nutritional Estimate: 4 Servings. Per serving: 255 Calories; 27 g Total Carbs; 2 g Dietary Fiber; 3 g Sugars; 5 g Fat; 50 mg Cholesterol; 572 mg Sodium; 24 g Protein. Weight Watchers: 5 points.

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If you have never seen it, and if you can find it, the movie Tampopo is a must for what the Japanese will do to get the perfect broth. It's also a fine meditation on food.

Hi again Jane...

While I was writing this post I thought maybe I should mention Tampopo, since it really does make clear the importance of noodles and noodle broth in Japanese life. Then I thought maybe it was way too obscure (its 25 years old), and this post doesnt really deal with authentic Japanese broth since its about my adaptation of Chinese ingredients and flavors to a Japanese-style udon with chicken soup. That said, Im glad you brought it up...unfortunately its not available on iTunes, but it is available on DVD from Amazon at ... where it has a 4 1/2 star rating based on 129 comments (78% rated it 5 star, 17% 4 star). One piece of advice: dont see it when youre hungry...I was in a rush to get to the 6:00 screening when I saw it in Cambridge, MA and so hadnt eaten...we went directly to our favorite Japanese restaurant in Boston afterwards and had a ridiculously huge meal!

Thanks for your comment...

Speaking of movies, I'd also recommend Ramen Girl, starring Brittany Murphy. She plays an American expat who stumbles onto a noodle shop and decides that she wants to learn how to be a ramen chef.

Thanks Katie!

While we're talking about noodles and ramen, check out this recent post by a guy who works at the best sushi shop in Portland, Maine (Miyake) - it's an account of a whirlwind tour of New York ramen shops that the Miyake staff took in preparation for the new Portland ramen shop they're opening. Talk about noodles...!

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