Chicken Soup with Ginseng

ginseng soup

A variation: fresh American ginseng (花旗參) soup with silkie chicken (烏骨雞).

Ginseng is a medicinal root found in eastern Asia, North America, and other locations in the Northern Hemisphere. The restorative properties of ginseng root have been known to the Chinese for thousands of years. But due to its rarity it was only available to the nobility, specifically the imperial family. In the early 18th century, the discovery of a new ginseng variety in North America resulted in a new and abundant source for the root. The sale of American ginseng root to China provided an important source of income for the American government in the years following the revolution (see video link at the bottom of this article.)

Common varieties of ginseng currently available at Asian markets in the United States are Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius 花旗參). The root is sold dried, preserved in bottles or more rarely as fresh roots. The two ginseng varieties share many similar attributes, but traditional Chinese medicine imbues Chinese and American ginseng with some different and sometimes opposite qualities. The reader is invited to read the references below and decide for himself which variety is appropriate for his personal circumstances. A friend of mine who frequently prepares ginseng soup for her husband hedges her bets by using a combination of both Korean red (P. ginseng) and American (P. quinquefolius).

The combination of chicken and pork results in a rich broth. But feel free to experiment with other combinations such as all chicken, either conventional or the exotic black skin silkies.

ginseng soup ingredients

Fresh American ginseng root (left). Ingredients for preparing ginseng soup (right)  clockwise from top left: ginger slices, red dates (jujube), sliced fresh American ginseng root, astragalus, dioscorea, gogi berries.


Chicken Soup with Ginseng
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
A rich and restorative soup.
  • 2 quarts of chicken stock, or half stock, half water
  • 5 oz lean pork
  • 1 chicken leg (see Note 1)
Herbs and other ingredients
  • 2 oz (54 g) of fresh or ¾ oz (20 g) dried ginseng (see Note 2)
  • 8 dried red dates (jujube, or 紅棗), cored and rinsed
  • 2-3 slices of ginger
  • ¼ cup rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon goji berries (杞子)
Optional ingredients
  • 2 slices of dried astragalus (北芪)
  • 4-5 slices of Chinese yam (dioscorea, or 淮山)
  1. Blanch the pork and chicken in boiling water for about 5-10 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to remove any scum adhering to the meat. Transfer the meat to a 4 quart pot, preferably ceramic-lined. Add stock and water.
  2. Rinse dates, ginseng, astragalus in cold water and add to the pot. Add the ginger, wine and dioscorea.
  3. Bring to a boil then simmer for 3 hours.
  4. While the soup is simmering, soak the goji berries in cold water. Rinse, drain and add to the soup to cook for the last 15 minutes.
Note 1. The rich meat broth required as the basis for this soup can be achieved by using both chicken and pork. Variations included using only chicken parts (about 3 pounds, or 1.5 kg), or a whole silkie chicken.

Note 2. A friend of mine combines equal parts American (花旗參) and Korean red ginseng (紅蔘) to achieve a balance of yin and yang. For this recipe use either or both. If using dried Korean red ginseng, try reducing the quantity to 10 g or less.



Teresa M. Chen (2009). A Tradition of Soup. North Atlantic Books.
Panax ginseng at MedlinePlus
American ginseng at MedlinePlus