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Bean Curd, Ginkgo Nuts, and Barley Sweet Soup
Let's prepare this classic Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley dessert in your home. This soup is healthy, yummy, vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
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 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.
Andrea Metlika says:
What a great hearty and flavorful soup. I can't wait to make this for my family.
Such an exotic dish! I wish I could find these ingredients near me I would love to make this soup...it looks absolutely beautiful!
Lisa Ng says:
Catherine, you can use just regular barley to make it and omit the bean curd sheets, it will be just as delicious!
What a fabulous dish. I love trying new things.
Kelly Anthony says:
What a special recipe you have shared. I have never had a sweet soup like this and I am excited to try something new.
Wow this sounds so interesting and delicious, can’t wait to try it!
Due to Christmas holidays, i kept on browsing for new soup recipes. Google brought me here. I am so happy to learn about Bean Curd, Ginkgo Nuts, and Barley Sweet Soup. Will prepare it right away! Thanks so much for sharing this with me!!
Thank you for posting! I was looking for a warming sweet soup. I’d forgotten about this combination of ingredients and this recipe is perfect. Thank you!
I love soup but have never made anything like this before. The flavors sound delicious.
I love soups, and this one is going on the list of the soups I want to try!
Nart at Cooking with Nart says:
I love ginko nuts in desserts so much but have never had them this way. I also like that you use healthy ingredients in this recipe so I'll definitely be trying it!
What a delicious recipe! We have a great little market that sold all the ingredients.
This looks a little like a rice pudding, so comforting and warming.
I tried but it turned out salty! I realised that the beancurd sheet has salt on it and it needs to be rinsed and soaked before cooking to remove the salt. I added 2 big chunks of rock sugar but it still tasted salty. Had to throw the entire pot away. So sad.
Hi Michelle, I'm sorry it didn't work out with the bean curd sheet. Can you confirm you are using the sheet version and not the stick version for the bean curd? The sheets are usually very thin and at most we need to wipe them with a clean kitchen towel or give them a quick rinse with tap water to remove dirt, then crack into smaller pieces. If you are using bean curd sticks, then you want to soak them first in cold water to soften before using.
I tried but I cannot get the same milky colour and texture like yours. I tried using different brands of dried bean curd sheet but yet still not able to get the milky texture. Can you advise?
Hi Irene, if you can find the exact same brand for the dried bean curd sheet as shown in my first photo, that would be the best solution. Otherwise, it is indeed tricky to find the correct bean curd sheet.
If you really want the soup to have a milky look, you can try replacing half of the water with soy milk. Of course, if you use sweetened soy milk, you may want to reduce the amount of sugar so it doesn't end up too sweet.
Just me says:
There are 2 types of dried bean curd skin. They look similar, but 1 is salty (for savory dishes) while the other is without salt (fir desserts such as this). You'll need to look at the ingredients printed on each packet to tell them apart. I made this mistake, and had to throw everything away. Also, don't boil the pandan (screw pine) leaves for more than 30 minutes, as the flavor changes.
Stevie Leong Weng Kong says:
I wonder why my beancurd sheet is chewy . I soak the beancurd sheet for an hour( soften ) and add in after barley boil fir an hour Please advise Thank you
Hi Stevie, usually if the bean curd comes in sheets and especially if the packaging has a dessert soup photo, it should almost always be soft. If the bean curd comes in sticks, it will almost never become soft and will stay chewy. If it comes in sheets, but the packaging is missing the dessert soup photo, there is a 50:50 chance it can become soft, though it can also stays chewy. I usually experiment with different brands of bean curd sheets until I found the one that works in dessert soup. :)
Stevie Leong Weng Kong says:
I have finally succeeded getting the beancurd soften.
I soak the bean curd in hot water (not boiling water and cover it with a lid.) the first soak , I have it soften but I repeated the process again.
I boil the barley , ginkgo , pandan leave and adding rock sugar the same as you mention.
Once the sugar melted , i off the heat and waited for about 5-10 mins than I add in the soften beancurd.
Note:- whatever balance , I didn’t boil it again the next day to make it hot because that will make the beancurd chewy. I take it cold.
If we prefer it hot than — is either you dun put all the beancurd in all at one go (leave the balance for the next day) or just soak enough.
Just share my breakthrough.
Melinda Loke says:
Thank you, Anita. Like and enjoyed your recipe. Will definitely surf through your other recipes. I’m a Malaysian Chinese, hence prefer to cook it in an Asian Chinese style. Cheers.
I was looking to make this and it seems like a good recipe but I just want to let you know that barley isn’t gluten free.
You are right, J! I've updated the article. Thank you.
Hi does this recipe freeze well?
Hi Juju, the soup should freeze well for 2 to maybe 3 months.
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