This comforting soup is the epitome of simple Thai home cooking. It's a soup that just about every Thai family makes regularly, mine included, and especially if they have kids. It's called gaeng jued which literally means "bland curry," but it is anything but bland! It's named that way because it's one of the few Thai soups that's not spicy at all, so it is named "bland" to contrast the other spicier curries.
It is a comforting clear soup that is simple but so flavourful, and I'm going to make this version with glass noodles; which makes this gaeng jued woon sen. I'm also going to add egg tofu and napa cabbage, but you can modify this endlessly, and I'll give you all the different options in the post.
I make some version of this soup almost weekly because it is a staple of my son's diet, and a great way to use up veggies in the fridge!
What is Gaeng Jued แกงจืด?
This glass noodle soup is a very common version of a gaeng jued, which is a family of clear soups using pork broth or chicken broth as the base. It's seasoned simply with fish sauce and soy sauce, and it goes well with just about anything, making it a very popular "wet element" of a Thai meal. (For more on elements of a well-balanced Thai meal, see my YouTube video here)
Though this version is a noodle soup, it isn't something you eat by itself like you would ramen or pho. Rather it is shared in a family style meal, and yes, with rice! If you want to learn about how to eat a Thai meal like a Thai, here's a video all about that :).
Here are all the ingredients, and I've included important notes on some of them. While you can add any protein or vegetables to a gaeng jued in theory, there are some tried and true options that people tend to stick to, and we'll go over that below. For amounts, see the recipe card below.
- Chinese style chopped pork spare ribs or chicken wings drumettes. Pork is the default for gaeng jued, but if you don't eat pork, chicken will also do. You can find the pork spare ribs at any Chinese grocery stores’ meat department. (See note on this below.)
- Daikon or onion, peeled and large-diced, optional; though these sweeten the broth and makes the soup extra delicious.
- Cilantro stems or cilantro roots if you have them. Like the daikon, this is an optional aromatic for the broth.
- Fish sauce. See how to choose good fish sauce here.
- Soy sauce
- Ground white pepper
- Dried glass noodles, soaked in room temp water for about 7 minutes until softened, then cut with scissors in half or thirds to shorten. Use glass noodles made from 100% mung bean starch such as Pine Brand.
- Egg tofu, or regular soft tofu.
- Napa cabbage, bite-sized pieces.
- Chopped cilantro and/or green onions
- Fried garlic and garlic oil for topping, optional but highly recommended. You make this simply by frying chopped garlic in oil over low heat, so if you have a few extra minutes of time it's worth making, and you can use it on anything to make things garlicky! Instructions on how to make this is in the recipe card.
A note on pork ribs and wings: The reason I chose these as the protein is because they are a 2-in-1 deal; we get the meat and bones all in one package. This means that we can start the soup with plain water, and you'll end up with a rich, flavorful stock by the end. A good stock is the heart and soul of this soup, so this is very important!
Important: I encourage you to not use store bought, boxed chicken broth for this recipe. Those are made for Western cuisines, so the flavour is different, and they are typically not very full-bodied. If anything, I'd rather you use store bought bone broth with a relatively neutral flavour.
The simple pork meatballs are the most popular protein option for Kang too. If you are not using ribs or wings because you have a good stock to start, then you'd want to make more of the meatballs, about 1.5X the recipe.
- Ground pork or ground chicken, preferably not lean.
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Garlic, finely grated, optional. I don't usually bother with the garlic because I make this soup so much, so I try to simplify the process; but it's a nice touch so I will add it if making a special one for guests.
- A few cracks of freshly ground white pepper, black pepper will also work.
Other Protein and Vegetable Options
This soup is not only tasty and easy, it is so very modifiable! Here are some options for other fresh vegetables and proteins you can try:
- Napa cabbage. This is by far the most common veg for gaeng jued.
- Asian mushrooms. Enoki, shimedi, wood ear, or fresh shiitake will all work.
- Baby corn
- Cucumber. YES, we cook cucumber regularly in Thai cuisine, and it's great added to soups. Also try this great spicy chicken and cucumber stir fry!
- Bok choy, while not super common in Thailand, it is a good soup vegetable if you like it!
- Pork meatballs. This is by far the most common protein, and in my books this is a must!
- Egg tofu. Think soft tofu texture, but made from eggs. It usually comes in a tube, and when I was a kid it was the only kind of tofu I would eat. It is more flavourful than soy tofu, so something to try if regular tofu is not your thing.
- Soft tofu. Always soft for gaeng jued, and I might allow medium-firm, but firm tofu really doesn't work well!
- Premade Asian meatballs. These are the bouncy meatballs you find in pho. Definitely makes life easy!
- Thai omelette. YES we actually put omelette into gaeng jued, and the omelette soaks up broth like a sponge. Thai omelettes are extremely easy to make, so check out my basic Thai omelette recipe here.
What about seafood or pieces of sliced meats, like sliced chicken breast? Those are not commonly added in Thailand, but there's no reason why you couldn't add them. Just a word of warning, because seafood and lean meats overcook quickly, they should be the last thing you add to the soup, and they should only cook for a few minutes before serving.
Glass noodles. That's it. What, you thought I was going to say you can use rice noodles or egg noodles? Nope. glass noodles are the only noodles we use in gaeng jued.
See, glass noodles, also known as mung bean noodles, have this magical ability to remain intact in soup for days. They never swell and mush the way rice or wheat noodles do. And because this soup is meant to be served family style, the noodles need to last the length of a shared meal, and maybe even the next few days if you have leftovers. Glass noodles will remain intact even reheated days later.
Rice or wheat noodles, on the other hand, once added to soup, need to be consumed asap or they will turn to mush. So they are better suited for noodle soups that are meant to be eaten on their own in one sitting, such as boat noodles or Thai chicken noodle soup.
How To Make Gaeng Jued
Here's a bird's eye view of how to make this recipe, so you get an idea of what the process involves. The full details are in the recipe card below. I also encourage you to watch the video tutorial to ensure success!
- Add the ribs or the wings to a pot, cover with water and season with fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and white pepper.
- Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, until you see a bunch of foam gathered on top, and then skim it off.
- Add cilantro stems and daikon and loosely cover the pot so it doesn’t reduce too much. Simmer until the meat is fork tender; wings will take a total of 20 mins, and the ribs 30-40 mins depending on the size.
- Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients and make the meatballs by combining all ingredients together and use your hand to knead the mixture until well combined.
- Once the ribs/wings are tender, use 2 teaspoons and flick bite-sized chunks of meatballs into the soup.
- After the meatballs are all added, allow the soup to come back to a boil, and then add the napa cabbage and egg tofu.
- Once the soup comes back to a boil, add the glass noodles and cook for 3 mins.
- Turn off the heat and taste and adjust seasoning with more soy sauce or fish sauce as needed, then finish it off with green onions and/or cilantro, and fried garlic and garlic oil.
Thai Glass Noodle Soup
- 5 cups water, see note 1
- 12 oz Chinese-style chopped pork spare ribs or chicken wings drumettes, see note 2
- 1 2-inch section daikon or ¼ onion, peeled and large-diced (optional)
- 5-6 cilantro stems
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1.4 oz dried glass noodles
- 250 g egg tofu, or soft tofu
- 4 cups 160 g napa cabbage, bite-sized pieces
- Chopped cilantro and/or green onions
- Fried garlic and garlic oil for topping, optional but highly recommended, recipe below
Fried Garlic (optional, this makes more than you need but you'll be glad to have it in the fridge!)
- 1 head garlic
- ⅓ cup neutral oil
- We're starting the soup by simmering pork spare ribs or wings in plain water, which will turn the water into a rich broth by the end. If you already have unsalted homemade pork stock or chicken stock to start, then you can use 4 cups of the stock instead of water, omit the ribs/wings, and then increase the amount of meatballs by 1.5 times.
You can find pork spare ribs cut into small chunks (About 1.5-inch pieces) at any Chinese grocery stores’ meat departments.
FULL VIDEO TUTORIAL
All my recipes come with step-by-step video tutorials with extra tips not mentioned in the blog post, so make sure you watch the video to ensure success. If you enjoy them, consider subscribing to the YouTube Channel to not miss an episode. Thank you!Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
- If you’re using pork ribs, go through them to find ones that are meaty, and cut them down so the meaty part isn’t more than about ½-inch thick. This is just to speed up the cooking; you can leave them chunky if you have time to let them cook longer.12 oz Chinese-style chopped pork spare ribs or chicken wings drumettes
- Add the ribs or the wings to a pot, cover with water and season with fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and white pepper. Let that simmer for 5-10 minutes, just until you see a bunch of foam gathered on top, and then skim it off.5 cups water, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- Add cilantro stems and daikon and loosely cover the pot so it doesn’t reduce too much. Let this simmer until the meat is fork tender, wings will take a total of 20 mins, and the ribs 30-40 mins depending on the size.1 2-inch section daikon or ¼ onion, 5-6 cilantro stems
- Meanwhile soak the glass noodles in room temp water for at least 7 minutes to soften, then drain and cut into 2-3 sections. (If you want to add fried garlic, now would be a good time to make it, recipe below.)1.4 oz dried glass noodles
- Make the meatballs by combining all ingredients together and use your hand to knead the mixture until well combined.½ lb ground pork or chicken, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, ¾ teaspoon sugar, Few cracks of freshly ground white pepper
- Once the ribs/wings are done simmering, use 2 spoons to scoop and flick bite-sized chunks of meatballs into the soup.
- After the meatballs are all added, allow the soup to come back to a boil if it has stopped, and then add the napa cabbage and egg tofu, then wait for the soup to come back to a boil. Then add the glass noodles and cook for 3 mins.4 cups 160 g napa cabbage, bite-sized pieces, 250 g egg tofu
- Taste and adjust seasoning with more soy sauce or fish sauce as needed, then finish it off with green onions and/or cilantro. Top with fried garlic to finish. This soup is typically served with rice, but if you want to eat it by itself, that's fine too!Chopped cilantro and/or green onions, Fried garlic and garlic oil for topping
For the Fried Garlic and Garlic Oil
- Chop the garlic just until the pieces are no bigger than ⅛-inch, but don't mince it finely.1 head garlic
- Add the oil to a small pot, then put one piece of garlic in it and turn the heat to medium. Once the piece of garlic is bubbling, add the rest of the garlic then turn the heat down to medium low.⅓ cup neutral oil
- Stir the garlic until the pieces are a light golden (not brown!) and the bubbling has mostly subsided. Off the heat and drain using a metal sieve. Keep the garlic and the garlic oil in separate air-tight containers, and store them in the fridge.