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I boiled one chicken breast in three litres of water with three medium-sized raw onions, two teaspoons of ginger powder, two teaspoons of dried garlic flakes, 10–15 whole black peppers, two table spoons of canola oil, and three teaspoons of salt.

After boiling for almost 35 minutes, the water is reduced to two litres. Then I added three coils of egg noodles and cooked until the noodles were soft.

I tried the noodle soup, and it tasted bland. It felt like this soup was missing a lot of things. I finished eating the noodles, but I still have the breast piece and almost one litre of soup.

What can I add more to improve the taste of this soup?

N.B. I am allergic to bell peppers or chili peppers.

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    It won’t help now, but you generally want to avoid boiling when making soup. You want simmering (an occasional bubble coming up), because all of the great smells that come off during cooking is flavor that’s not longer in the dish when eating.
    – Joe
    Sep 16 at 0:07
  • Were you asking how to improve it when next making soup? (Looking at the question that was ‘accepted’), because I think there are other questions on here about that. I assumed you were trying to rescue what you had
    – Joe
    Sep 17 at 18:47

5 Answers 5

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Based on your recipe, things I would change:

  • Instead of boiling, bring the water to a boil, then immediately drop to a simmer. Cooking things too hot too fast almost always results in degradation of flavor, and in a soup you generally need a long cook time to get the flavors to diffuse and blend properly, so you need a lower temperature for cooking.
  • Gently sauté or roast the onion before using it in the soup. Ideally, do this in the bottom of the pot you’re cooking the soup in so you get all the flavors in the stock. This will help bring out the flavors more, as well as making the onions softer in the final soup. Possibly do the same with the chicken.
  • Unless you particularly dislike garlic, use at least another teaspoon, possibly more. A number of the compounds in garlic (or produced as part of cooking with it) act as flavor enhancers, much the same way that salt does.
  • Grind the spices using a mortar and pestle before adding them. The higher surface area will transfer a lot more flavor and also help the flavor diffuse better throughout the soup.
  • Consider using more chicken. One breast is not a lot for that much soup, so the flavor from it is not going to be particularly strong. This is especially the case if the breast is boneless, as soaking the bones is a large part of what adds flavor to meat broths.
  • Alternatively, consider using bouillon cubes (chicken bouillon would be the natural choice here) or even instant dashi (if you are going for an East Asian flavor) to add to the flavor without adding a lot of extra calories.
  • Consider using an oil other than canola oil. Canola oil has very little flavor, which makes it useful in some cases (for example, as a carrier for flavors that don’t blend well with water), but not as great in others. Depending on the exact flavor you’re going for, I would consider olive oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, or even coconut oil.
  • Consider using more vegetables. Top of the list for me would be celery and/or carrots (probably diced and sautéed alongside the onions, so you get something a bit like a mirepoix as a base). Both are flavorful vegetables that work well in soup. Other possibilities that come to mind include tomato (either as a paste or finely diced, added later on), daikon (will add some texture because it stays crunchy even when cooked), or some variety of mushrooms (I would probably use shitake or boletes).
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    I would put more emphasis on the meat. Chicken breast is just not that good for soup. You need some bony joint pieces for a proper soup. I would use a chicken carcass where the breast pieces are cut off for soup and then only throw in the breast pieces at the very end so that they get cooked through.
    – quarague
    Sep 18 at 6:15
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Chicken breast is bland; you won't get much flavour out of it.

There are a couple of things you can do :

Roast the chicken and onions before to add some depth, you could also use some tomato paste (cut the onion and mix with the tomato paste); add some more vegetables like carrots, celery, shallots or whole garlic heads.

Instead of salt, you could add some soy sauce, usually at the end.

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It’s difficult to make recommendations, as you probably have something on hand to help, but we can’t see what’s in your pantry.

With the limited amount of meat used to make the broth, you may want to add something that adds ‘meatiness’ (aka umami). This includes fish sauce, wostershire sauce, miso paste, shrimp paste, anchovies, hard cheeses, dried mushrooms, and MSG.

A weak broth (aka, remouillage, technically a ‘rewetting’ of bones to make a second broth) can be used as an ingredient in other cooking (especially risotto, paella, or other rice dishes) when you don’t want it to be too overwhelming, or even using it as a base for your next round of broth / stock.

And if you really have to, you add a stock cube, boullion, or the equivalent … although that might be an issue with your food restrictions

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Most of the [I hesitate only slightly to call them clickbait] recipes for chicken noodle soup using only a chicken breast make up their entire flavour profile using ready-made stock. The chicken breast is nothing more than something to look at, a bit of decoration so you can call it chicken soup. It will add very little flavour to the soup at all.

To really make it from scratch you need to start with either a whole chicken [quartered], or even less fuss, a carcass left over from yesterday's roast dinner, optionally plus your single raw breast to add at the end, for some 'chunks'. Personally I'd just make sure I started with enough meat left on the carcass & skip the fresh at the end. Alternatively, add a couple of fresh thighs cooked as long as the carcass. Fresh thighs will get tender over time, fresh breast will become like so much pencil eraser.
The 'body' of your soup will really come from the 'bits you don't eat' - the skin, bones, cartilage etc. This will develop not only a much deeper flavour, but texture & mouth-feel, it will naturally slightly thicken the soup.

Throw the carcass in with any or all of - onions, celery, carrots, garlic, fresh thyme, parsley, salt & black pepper [&/or anything in the fridge that needs using up].
Simmer until it completely falls apart - call it three to four hours. This is one of those things it's pretty hard to over-cook, so don't be in a hurry. You can play with your final flavour profile by reducing at a boil or adding water. [You lose less if you make it a little strong & have to knock it back, of course. Boiling boils off a part of the flavour - you can smell it in the room], also check seasoning part-way & again at the end.
Lift out all the bones, skin, anything you don't want in the final soup, shred any remaining chicken into easily spoonable sizes.
Dice your fresh chicken if you are using it, and add with or after your noodles, depending on how long the noodles need. Fresh diced chicken breast takes about 2 minutes; most people over-cook it [pencil erasers again]. Check one of the largest pieces for doneness.

If you leave out the fresh breast, your soup will freeze nicely, with or without the noodles.

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    Yes, the carcass, this is the only sane way
    – Jeffrey
    Sep 17 at 21:36
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One chicken breast for 3 liters of water is hardly enough to make a flavorful broth. You would either need more chicken or other vegetables (carrots, celery, sweet potato, parsnip, whatever you like), or preferably both, in order to add enough flavor.

For example, this recipe for chicken broth has 2-2 1/2 pounds (about a kilo) of chicken for 2 quarts (about 2 liters) of water, and this recipe has 4 pounds of chicken plus carrots, celery and leeks for 4 quarts of water.

For comparison, one chicken breast is approximately half a pound of chicken, so by the same ratios as above it would make about half a liter of strongly-flavored broth. Additionally, if your chicken breast was boneless, then you lost out on even more flavor that comes from the bones of the chicken.

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