Vietnamese cuisine is both loved and celebrated for its unique mix of sweet, savoury, spicy and sour flavours. Nowhere is this better expressed than in the comforting and flavourful dish of chao, or Vietnamese soup. Chao is clasically made using a simple mix of rice, broth, vegetables and spices, and is cooked over low heat for many hours until all of the ingredients have perfectly melded together. The ingredients in chao are easy to find and work with, with many being readily available from most Asian grocers. The fragrant soup is very nourishing and generally nutritious, with many variations having been adapted to different countries. Whether you’re looking for a warming vegan dish or a protein-power meal, this article will take you through everything you need to know about chao, Vietnam’s beloved soup.
What is Chao?
Chao is a traditional Vietnamese soup that has been around for centuries. A simple combination of rice, broth, vegetables, and some specific spices, the dish is cooked slowly over a low heat for many hours until all of the ingredients have perfectly melded together. The word chao translates to ‘porridge’ and is typically served warm as a breakfast or light lunch dish in Vietnam. It can also be enjoyed as a main course or side dish in the evening. Variations of chao have spread to other countries in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States, with each having its own individual adaptation to the dish that reflects the regional cuisine.
Ingredients Used in Chao
The main ingredients of chao are rice, broth, vegetables, and spices. The dish’s delicate colours and flavours are derived from these key components. Below is a list of ingredients typically included in chao:
**Rice.** Most Vietnamese cooks choose long-grain white rice for its fluffy, light texture. However, when making chao, some people also experiment with jasmine, basmati, and even sticky varieties. It is important to make sure the rice is cooked al dente, as too much cooking can result in a mushy texture.
**Broth.** The broth for chao can be made with either pork, chicken, vegetarian, or fish broth. Pork or chicken broth is the most common, while vegetarian or fish broth should be used for vegan and vegetarian chao recipes. The broth should be seasoned lightly with salt, pepper, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
**Vegetables.** Vegetables are usually included to give the soup a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. Common vegetables used in chao include cabbage, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and carrots.
**Spices.** Spices play an important role in adding depth and flavour to chao. Garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom are the most common spices used. To add a kick of heat, some people may add chilli flakes or fresh chillies to their chao.
The Origins of Chao
Chao is a traditional Vietnamese dish that is believed to date back to the 16th century. It is believed that chao was initially made to feed large families or as part of celebrations, such as weddings and festivals. Over time, asase was exported to other countries in Asia, Europe, and the United States. As a result of this, some variations are now regionalised to the country in which they are cooked, for example, Italian pork and bean chao.
Variations on Chao Soup
- Chao is a versatile dish that can be adapted to taste by adding different ingredients and spices. Variations of the traditional recipe can be found in different countries throughout Southeast Asia, Europe, and the US. Popular variations include:
- Mushroom chao – A vegetarian variation of chao made with mushrooms and onions.
- Thai chao – A traditional Thai variation made with coconut milk, lemongrass, tofu, and fish sauce.
- Japanese chao – A Japanese variation of the dish, made with dashi broth, miso, and udon or soba noodles.
- Vegan chao – A vegan version of chao made with coconut milk, vegetables, and spices.
- Italian pork and bean chao – An Italian variation of chao, made with pork, beans, and vegetables.
Nutrition Information for Chao
Chao is a wholesome and nourishing dish that is packed with vitamins and minerals. Depending on the recipe, it can also be a great source of protein and healthy fats. Below is a breakdown of the nutritional information for one serving of chao:
Vitamins/Minerals|B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, iron
Tips for Making the Perfect Chao
Making the perfect chao is not as difficult as it may seem. Here are some tips to help you get the best results:
**1. Use the right type of rice.** Long-grain white rice is the best choice for chao, as it has a lighter texture and cooks faster than other types of rice.
**2. Cook slowly.** Chao needs to be cooked on a low heat for a few hours to allow all of the ingredients to combine together and give the soup the perfect consistency.
**3. Adjust the ingredients.** Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your own preference, adding or subtracting spices or vegetables depending on what you like best.
**4. Omit the pork or chicken broth.** To make a vegetarian or vegan version of chao, simply omit the pork or chicken broth and use vegetable or fish broth instead.
**5. Garnish with herbs.** Herbs are a great way to give the dish a pop of flavour and colour. Try adding fresh cilantro, basil, or mint to the soup to give it more of a kick.
Frequently Asked Questions
**1.What is chao?**
Chao is a traditional Vietnamese soup made with rice, broth, vegetables, and spices. It is cooked slowly over a long period of time to allow all of the ingredients to combine together and create the perfect flavour.
**2. What type of rice should I use for chao?**
For best results, use long-grain white rice for chao as it has a lighter texture and cooks faster than other types of rice.
**3. Are there any variations of chao?**
Yes, variations of chao can be found in different countries throughout the world. Popular variations include mushroom chao, Thai chao, and Japanese chao.
**4. How long should chao be cooked for?**
Chao should be cooked for about 45 minutes, with the ingredients simmering over a low heat. This is to allow all of the flavours to blend together and for the soup to become thick and fragrant.
**5. What are some tips for making the perfect chao?**
Tips for making the perfect chao include using the right type of rice, cooking slowly, adjusting the ingredients to your own preference, omitting the pork or chicken broth if desired, and garnishing with herbs for a pop of flavour and colour.
**6. What are the nutrition facts for chao?**
One serving of chao contains 231 calories, with 43g of carbohydrates, 6g of protein, 2g of fat and 2g of fiber. It also contains B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, and iron.
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 bell pepper, julienned
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chili
In a large pot, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Add the fish sauce, sugar, and vegetable oil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the onion, garlic, lemongrass. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, carrot, bell pepper, and black pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in the lime juice and bean sprouts. Cook until the bean sprouts are just tender, about 3 minutes.
Mix in the cilantro, basil, mint, green onions, peanuts, and chili. Simmer for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and serve hot.
For extra spice, add extra fresh chili according to your taste preference.
For a vegan version, omit the fish sauce and use non-dairy alternatives.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Soup
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Vietnamese
- Diet: Halal
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 230 kcal
- Sugar: 4g
- Sodium: 700mg
- Fat: 14g
- Saturated Fat: 2g
- Unsaturated Fat: 13g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 20g
- Fiber: 3g
- Protein: 12g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: Chảo Vietnamese Soup, Vietnamese Cuisine, Vegan Option, , , ,