I love homemade chicken stock, the warmth that the bubbling pot exudes, the gingery fragrance that fills the kitchen, and the golden brew that emerges. But frankly, I don’t always have time to make it and there's none in the fridge and freezer. In such times of chicken stock need, I reach for a can and doctor it up.
Please don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s okay to substitute western chicken stock for what’s used in Asian cooking. The additions of celery, carrot, parsley and other herbs create a ‘flavor profile’ that’s suitable for risotto, paella, and chicken noodle soup but not for wonton noodle soup or chicken and cellophane noodle soup. Before using canned chicken broth for Vietnamese food, I tweak it to give it an Asian flavor. In a pinch, here is how to mimic homemade stock closely.
First, choose a brand of broth that tastes like chicken and not much else. I’m a Swanson’s user. At Asian markets, those broths are good too. Try as I have, the organic chicken broths sold at most supermarkets have too strong of a celery/carrot/parsley flavor. I get the Swanson’s at Costco and select the full sodium kind. You’ll understand why very soon.
In a saucepan, dilute the canned broth with water in a ratio of 2 parts broth to 1 part water. For example, if you are starting with 3 cups broth, add 11/2 cups water. Start with about 10 percent more liquid than what you will actually need, as there will be some evaporation during the short simmering.
For every 4 cups liquid, add 2 quarter-sized slices of ginger and 1 scallion, cut into 3-inch lengths. Lightly smash these ingredients with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife. If you'd like add some shrimp shells or a tablespoon of dried shrimp for a nice briny flavor. Any raw chicken bits (trimmed wings, for example) or leftover pork can be added for extra richness.
Bring the broth and water to a simmer, add the ginger and scallion, and simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Strain and discard the solids. The stock is now ready to use.