Let's prepare this classic Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley dessert in your home. This soup is healthy, yummy, vegan-friendly, and gluten-free.
Chinese, especially Cantonese cuisine, has so many delicious sweet/dessert soup. These soups are usually easy to prepare and super healthy. Some of these are vegan-friendly and gluten-free too, which is exactly the case for this bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup (腐竹白果薏米糖水).
This soup has a special place in my life because my Mom prepared it for me on my wedding day. I’ll explain everything in detail so you will be able to replicate this dessert soup in your own home.
Chinese ingredients you will need to prepare this sweet soup
For this specific sweet soup, you will need dried bean curd sheet, gingko nuts, pearl barley/job’s tear barley, pandan leaves, rock sugar, and eggs.
Dried bean curd sheet (腐竹)
Dried bean curd is sold in two versions, stick version and sheet version. Please buy the sheet version.
You can still use the stick version, but since they are so much thicker compared to the sheets, you must soak bean curd sticks in cold water until soft before using, and the cooking time will most likely be longer to get to desired softness.
Prepping bean curd sheets: Wipe them gently with a clean kitchen cloth or give them a quick rinse under running water to remove any dirt, then break into smaller pieces before cooking.
Ginkgo nuts (白果)
I spotted two types of fresh ginkgo nuts being sold in my Asian market, a vacuum-packed version and fresh nuts still in their shells.
I use the vacuum-packed version, but you can use those still with shells. Just know that you will need to crack the shells and remove the brown skins from individual nut if you go with this version.
Prep: see the next section for a detailed explanation on how to prepare ginkgo nuts prior to cooking.
Pearl barley/job’s tear barley (薏米)
This is not the same as regular barley. Your Chinese market should have this. Or if you have a Japanese market near you, this is known as hato mugi in Japanese.
Prep: soak the barley for one hour in cold tap water prior to cooking.
You may spot them either fresh in the produce section, or frozen in the freezer section.
Prep: knot the leaves so they are easy to remove once cooked.
All traditional Chinese sweet soup is sweetened with rock sugar. You can use regular sugar, brown sugar, or even honey/maple syrup if you wish.
Preparing ginkgo nuts
Ginkgo nuts are technically not nuts, but rather, seeds of the ginkgo tree. They have tough white shells and need to be cracked to reveal the yellow meat inside. To me, they look like a tiny rugby ball or American football, which is quite cute. :)
The yellow meat contains a small seed-like core, which is super bitter if not removed. To remove the core, please do the followings:
- Cut each ginkgo seed in halves lengthwise.
- If you spot a core, simply remove it. The reason I said “if” is because not 100% of the yellow seeds will have cores in them. :)
- Blanch the coreless ginkgo seeds for 1 minute in hot boiling water.
Once you do all the above steps, your ginkgo nuts are ready to be used.
How to cook the sweet soup
Once all the prep work is done, we are ready to cook the soup. Here is how to do it:
- Boil the barley. Place water and pearl barley in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for one hour to soften the barley.
- Boil the ginkgo nuts. Next, we add ginkgo nuts into the pot and continue simmering the soup for another 30 minutes.
- Boil the bean curd. I typically use very thin bean curd sheets to prepare this soup, so this cook in no time at all. Add the bean curd along with pandan leaves, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
- Add sugar. Next, add the sugar, stir until all the sugar has melted. I love dessert soup that is less sweet, so the stated amount is what I like best. If you prefer sweeter soup, feel free to add more sugar.
- Add egg. Stir the soup continuously while we stream in the lightly beaten egg to create an egg drop soup effect. :)
And our bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup are all done! Oh, and do remove the pandan leaves from the soup before serving. This sweet soup can be served hot, room temperature, or even cold. Personally, I love the hot soup version. :)
Other Chinese sweet soup you may want to try
If you are a fan of Chinese sweet soup, I have other recipes that you may want to try:
Bean Curd, Ginkgo Nuts, and Barley Sweet Soup
- 5 cup water
- 50 gram pearl barley/job's tear barley, soaked in cold tap water for 1 hour
- 100 gram ginkgo nuts, halved and remove the bitter cores, blanched in hot water for 1 minute
- 50 gram bean curd sheet, crushed into small pieces
- 2-3 pandan leaves, knotted
- 50 gram rock sugar, or to taste
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Boil together water and pearl barley in a soup pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 1 hour.
- Add ginkgo nuts, and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
- Add bean curd and pandan leaves, and continue simmering for 15 minutes, or just until the bean curd is wilted and soft.
- Add rock sugar, stir until all the sugar has melted.
- Stir the soup continuously while streaming the lightly beaten egg into the soup. The stirring will create egg drop soup effect.
- Turn off the heat, and discard the pandan leaves.
- The soup can be served hot, at room temperature, or even cold.