Chinese Chicken Soup with Herbs

Chicken soup with herbs

Photo No. 1 — Chinese chicken soup with herbs.

Many cultures recognize the restorative properties of chicken soup. Chinese chicken soups incorporate herbs with a wide range of beneficial attributes. Used in appropriate quantities, the herbs add complexity without making the soup taste medicinal. My mom would purchase most of these herbs in bulk and store them in glass jars. Those who prefer to not stock these herbs can now purchase prepackaged mixes at Asian markets. Unfortunately, the mixes do not come with instructions. In this recipe, I have deconstructed Lop Sing Trading’s Soup Mix for Chicken. The reader can either use the mix or duplicate the herbal ingredients as shown in Photo No. 3. The honey dates (sometimes called candied dates) are not the same as Western dates. They are a brown or tan color and have a stringy skin, sometimes referred to as golden threads. These dates are not eaten as they come out of the package but are used in soups and teas.

Some recipes for chicken soup use a whole chicken. This might be a bit overwhelming for you end up with so much meat. In this recipe, I’m recommending a combination of chicken parts and chicken broth. I use Trader Joe’s Free Range  Chicken Broth (Trader Joe’s Organic broth is a bit too cloudy for this recipe.) You can use either a breast or a leg. The breast will produce a clean, relatively fat-free broth. The leg will add more fat to the broth (making it richer), and the meat will be tastier. To eliminate any possibility of the ingredients reacting with metal, cook the soup in an enamel or earthenware pot.

Honey dates

Photo No. 2 — Honey dates.

  • 1 half  chicken breast, or one whole leg (thigh and drumstick)
  • 1 quart high-quality chicken broth
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 package of Lop Sing Trading’s Soup Mix for Chicken or bulk herbs as shown in Photo No. 3
  • 5 additional slices of Chinese yam (optional)
  • 2 honey dates (Ziziphus jujube)

Soak the lotus seeds for 30 minutes in a cup of cold water. Drain and rinse. Set the wolfberries aside, and rinse the rest of the herbs in cold water.

Cut the chicken into 4 or 6 pieces. If you’re using a leg, use a cleaver to cut across the bone. Pour the stock and water into a pot. Add the chicken pieces and all of the herbs except the wolfberries. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for one hour. Skim off any scum that has floated to the top.

While the soup is simmering soak the wolfberries for 15 minutes in a cup of water, then drain and rinse thoroughly. Add the wolfberries to the soup, and continue to simmer for another hour.

Discard the astragalus and codonopsis. All of the other ingredients are edible.

Chicken Soup Herbal Mix

Photo No. 3 — Lop Sing Trading’s Soup Mix for Chicken: dioscorea, codonopsis, astragalus, wolfberry, longan, lotus seed, fox nut. This is the mix that I use for chicken soup with herbs.

Beneficial Attributes of Herbs Used in this Recipe
dioscorea, Chinese yam 淮山
waai4 saan1
tonifies qi
codonopsis 黨參
dong2 sam1
lowers blood pressure, increases red and white blood cell count, restores appetite, strengthens the immune system, and replenishes qi
astragalus 北芪
bak1 kei4
boosts the immune system, increases body resistance to the infections, decreases allergies
wolfberry, lycium berry 杞子
gei2 zi2
antioxidant, including potential benefits against cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, vision-related diseases (such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma), anticancer agent
dried longan 桂圓肉
gwai3 jyun4 juk6
promotes relaxation; gives internal “heat” (上火)
lotus seed 蓮子
lin4 zi2
clears “heat” (清熱)
fox nut, gorgon fruit 芡實
him3 sat6
strengthens male potency and retards aging
honey dates 蜜棗
mat6 zou2