Chao is a Vietnamese rice soup. Every culture has a version, and every cook has their own take on this simple dish. I grew up eating a lot of this with shredded chicken thighs, scallions and salt-cured hard boiled eggs. Warm and restorative, this is a childhood food that never lost its appeal. For me, it’s the comfort of mom’s cooking in a bowl.
Using squirrel in this dish instead of the traditional chicken makes this dish even more inviting. The post-waterfowl season is cold and without too many hunting opportunities for us here in Virginia, we do a little bit of small game hunting to wean ourselves off the relentless grind that is waterfowling. We start to notice how cold it is and how tired we are, and how many projects have been neglected since October. A warm bowl of chao after a cold day checking things off the to-do list is soothing and warms us to the core of our being.
For a less starchy soup, rinse the rice in cold water and gently drain off the starchy water, repeat a few times until the water looks clear. We used squirrel stock in this recipe, but you can use any light colored stock.
Prep time: 1 hour for the soup, 1 day for the squirrel
½ cup white rice
4 cups squirrel stock
2” ginger, peeled but not chopped
~1 tbsp fish sauce to season
Soy sauce to season
Scallions to garnish
Pulled squirrel confit (recipe below)
Add rice and ginger to saucepan, and add stock. Bring to a simmer, stirring once or twice to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan, then partially cover and adjust heat to the barest simmer. You want one or two grains of rice bubbling to the top every few seconds.
Simmer for about 45 minutes. The rice should looked “burst” and taste cooked through and soft but not dissolved and textureless. Season with fish sauce and soy sauce to taste. If you come across the knob of ginger while you’re stirring or serving, remove it.
Ladle chao into bowls and top with squirrel confit and scallions.
Sous Vide Squirrel Confit
Quarter squirrels and season with salt and pepper. Add to vacuum bag with 2 tsp duck fat per squirrel.
Sous vide at 167F for 16 hours, remove from bag and pull meat from bones.