Chicken and upo (bottle gourd) soup Chicken and upo (bottle gourd) soup

You can not imagine how excited I was to take photos of this soup. It’s the first time I snipped some leaves from the cilantro that I planted in the garden last December and you’re seeing them as the green garnish on the soup. I patiently refrained from touching the cilantro until they had grown sufficiently and today is the big day. This isn’t the Vietnamese cilantro that I’ve been adding to my dishes for the past several months but real cilantro. Click here if you want to read some garden tips on how to grow cilantro.

Another reason I am so excited about this soup dish is that it makes use of meat from chicken soup bones. If you’re a supermarket regular, you might have noticed that chicken is packed in several ways — whole, choice cuts, fillets and soup bones. The soup bones are NOT bare bones. They actually have a lot of meat in them. From a one kilo pack that costs about 40% to 60% less than regular packs, you get enough chicken meat to make a large pot of soup. The global recession does not mean we can’t try and eat well, does it? We home cooks just have to be more conscientious shoppers. If you grow vegetables and herbs in your garden, that’ll help your budget even more. The recipe…

Serves 4 to 6.


To make the broth

1 kilo of chicken soup bones
1/2 head of garlic
1 whole onion
1 tbsp. of peppercorns

To complete the soup

1 whole upo (bottle gourd), peeled, seeds scraped off then cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1 onion, finely sliced
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 to 4 tbsps. of cooking oil
patis (fish sauce)
freshly ground pepper
cilantro, to garnish

Place the chicken pieces in a large pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Remove scum as it rises. Add the garlic, onion and peppercorns (it is easier to remove scum when no peppercorns float in the liquid). Lower the heat, cover and simmer for an hour.

Scoop out the chicken, cool and separate the meat from the bones.

Strain the broth.

Heat the cooking oil in a large pot. Saute the garlic, onion and tomatoes until they start to turn soft. Add the chicken meat and upo cubes. Pour in the broth. Season with patis and add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the upo is done.

Garnish with snipped cilantro (optional but highly recommended) and serve at once.