Mama’s Sick Soup – Vietnamese Chao

chao-vietnamese rice soup

Some people eat chicken soup when they are sick. But growing up, whenever I was sick my mom use to make chao, a Vietnamese rice soup. 

Chao Ingredients

I remembered the chao recipe awhile back when my husband got really sick. Aside from making him feel better, he really loved the soup. Now every time he’s sick he asks me to make it – I’m pretty sure he would eat this on a regular basis if given the chance. 

The soup is very basic with just a few ingredients, which is sometimes all you want when you are sick. My mother told me that the key was serving the soup boiling hot with lots of cracked white pepper to make you sweat and help your body fight the sickness. Apparently she was right, because I always felt better afterwards.  

Chao chopping pork

Making the soup is easy, but my mom has a few pointers. It is better to chop up the meat yourself instead of buying it pre-ground, as the texture is better and the broth comes out more clear and clean. Also, toasting the rice before cooking adds a nice flavor and texture to the rice grains.

Mama's sick soup - Vietnamese Chao
Serves 4
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
45 min
247 calories
25 g
43 g
9 g
17 g
2 g
489 g
808 g
2 g
0 g
5 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 247
Calories from Fat 79
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 2g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 43mg
Sodium 808mg
Total Carbohydrates 25g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 2g
Protein 17g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. • 1/4 cup of white rice (jasmine or basmati)
  2. • 1 pork chop or a chicken breast
  3. • Ground black pepper and salt
  4. • 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
  5. • 1 medium onion, skin peeled off
  6. • 1 inch of fresh ginger, whole piece
  7. • 1 potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  8. • 40 oz. (1200 ml) water
  9. • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  1. • Cilantro
  2. • Scallions
  3. • Crisp fried shallots or onions
  4. • A pinch of Chili flakes
  5. • Cracked white pepper
  1. 1. Heat a small frying pan and toss the rice in. Toast the rice until the rice grains brown.
  2. 2. While the rice is toasting, beat/chop the pork (or chicken) with a knife. Use the knife like a meat tenderizer. Don't cut the meat all the way through but keep beating the meat with the knife until the pork start to fall apart like ground meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. 3. Heat some oil in a medium pot over medium heat and sauté the meat until almost cooked. 4. Add the toasted rice, whole onion, ginger, diced potato and water to the pot. Bring to a simmer for about 30-40 min covered.
  4. 4. Add the fish sauce, and add more salt and black pepper to taste, if needed. Remove the ginger and onion.
  5. 5. Serve the soup hot in a bowl and sprinkle with cilantro, scallion, crisp fried onions, chili flakes and plenty of cracked white pepper.
  1. If you want to make a luxury edition of this soup you can add a few pork bones or ribs for a more flavorful broth. If you want to add more vegetables in the soup small diced carrots and celery adds a nice flavor as well.

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