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Chinese Chicken Herbal Soup
Chinese chicken herbal soup recipe handed down from Grandma to Mom and finally to me, with guides to help you get the necessary herbs for this classic herbal soup.
My Mom insists that we drink a bowl of Chinese herbal soup once a week, no more and no less.
Each week she diligently prepares a different herbal soup for us. This ritual is something that I truly miss once I live apart from my family, and I wish I had shown more appreciation of how special and meaningful this has been in my upbringing.
Among the many Chinese soup recipes that my Mom prepares, I would pick this Chinese chicken herbal soup as THE ultimate herbal soup.
The smell that fills the house whenever this soup is slowly simmering away on a stove reminds me of a Chinese herbal store, really nostalgic and somehow just feels the healthiest.
Chinese herbs for the herbal soup
Each family has a different mix of Chinese herbs to prepare this soup, but these are the ingredients that I learn from my Mom, and she from my Grandma:
- dried red dates/jujube (Chinese: 红枣 - hong zao)
- dried goji berries (Chinese: 枸杞 - gou qi)
- dried angelica root (Chinese: 当归 - dang gui)
- dried astragalus root (Chinese: 黄芪- huang qi)
- dried codonopsis root (Chinese: 党参 - dang shen )
- dried Sichuan lovage rhizome (Chinese: 川芎 - chuan xiong)
- dried American (yellow) ginseng (Chinese: 花旗参 - hua qi shen)
- dried Korean (red) ginseng (Chinese: 高丽参 - gao li shen)
I admit it can be really hard to gather all these different Chinese herbs unless you live in a city where you have easy access to Chinatown, or bigger Chinese groceries the likes of 99 Ranch or Marina on the West Coast.
There are several photos in this post with a clear shot on the individual ingredient. Hopefully, they can help you find the necessary herbs. You can always show the photos to a store helper in Chinatown or a Chinese grocery store and get them to help you locate the herbs.
I also provide Amazon links to each ingredient in case buying online is the easiest option.
The recipe from my Mom has two types of ginseng: American (yellow) ginseng and Korean (red) ginseng. It is not necessary to use both ginsengs in the soup. You can use 100% American ginseng or 100% Korean ginseng, but please increase the amount when you do so.
Is there an easy prepackaged version for this chicken soup herb mix?
I’ve searched high and low for a prepackaged herbal mix that contains the exact herbs my family has been using, and I haven’t been able to do that. The closest that I have found so far is this chicken soup mix base. This particular mix has:
- red dates
- goji berries
- angelica root/dang gui
- astragalus/huang qi
- codonopsis root/dang shen
- Chinese yam
So the first 5 out of 7 listed ingredients are the same as my first 5 out of 8 ingredients. Instead of Sichuan lovage/chuan xiong and ginseng, this particular package includes Chinese yam and shiitake mushroom instead.
You will still end up with a great soup even using this convenient prepackaged mix, but it just won’t be the same as my herbal mix. :)
Which chicken is suitable for Chinese soup
In Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, we love using ayam kampung (free-range chicken) to prepare Chinese chicken soup.
And for special occasions, like for Chinese New Year, my Mom would sometimes use black silkie chicken. You may see silkie chicken sold in your Asian market, they have black skin, and black meat, though if you have ever seen a life silkie chicken, they look very fluffy and super cute. :)
Another chicken variety that I have tried is Cornish chicken, which is also a good choice to prepare all kinds of Chinese chicken soup.
Chinese Chicken Herbal Soup
- 1 small free-range chicken or Cornish hen, whole or cut into 4-8 pieces
- 8 (~ 15 gram) dried red dates/jujube fruit (Chinese: hong zao)
- 2 tablespoon (~10 gram) goji berries (Chinese: gou qi)
- 3 slices (~ 5 gram) angelica root (Chinese: dang gui)
- 1 slice (~ 5 gram) astragalus root (Chinese: huang qi)
- 10 pieces (~ 15 gram) codonopsis root (Chinese: dang shen)
- 8 slices (~ 10 gram) Sichuan lovage rhizome (Chinese: chuan xiong)
- 1/2 tablespoon (~ 5 gram) American (yellow) ginseng
- 1/4 tablespoon (~ 3 gram) Korean (red/panax) ginseng
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 liter water
- Rinse and drain all the dried herbs to remove dust and dirt.
- Place all ingredients in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until chicken is tender and fully cooked. Remove from heat and serve warm.
dewi sala3 says:
Mmmm...yummy,,, I really like the soup..
Thanks Dewi. Me and my family love the soup too :)
I love the taste of the Chinese herbal soup. Is it safe to eat the boiled roots, fruits, and ginseng in the soup?
Most are perfectly safe to be eaten EdP. For this particular soup, the two herbs that I don't eat are the astragalus root and codonopsis root, mainly because they are too fibrous and tough. The rest can be safely eaten.
My mom made a very similar soup for postpartum and my recovery after childbirth was speedy. I ate the soup for about 5 days straight and will have it about every other day. I feel much stronger.
For post delivery recovery, our family usually serve the new mom chicken in ginger and rice wine for 1 month straight :)
Can 2years old boy eat this herb soup? Thanks
Most Chinese grow up drinking soup like this from a very early age, so I am pretty sure a 2 year old will be okay drinking this soup. But not all people appreciate the taste, especially children. I remember hating herbal soup my Mom and Grandma made when I was young, so your 2 year old boy may need a bit of coaxing to drink up :)
after rinsing all the dried ingredients, should i boil it together with the chicken?
Hi Ameera, yes please boil all the ingredients together with the chicken. :)
Instead cooking it on a stove for one hour, is it ok if i just put everything in electric slow cooker and set the automatic timer for chicken? Is it also oke to add little sugar in it? Thank you :)
Hi Anastasia, you can definitely use a slow cooker to cook the chicken soup. And it is more than okay to add a bit of sugar to suit your preference. :)
sovan seng says:
Hello, Anita I really like your website and the soup. I just wonder if you can show us how to make the other kind of soup that you mention about your mother weekly difference soup you have drunken when you was young.
Does this soup make you feel powerful? Would it be detrimental to drink such a soup every day?
Hi Jason. I asked the same question to my Mom a long time ago. According to her, taking the soup everyday is not detrimental to health, but it is not going to be that useful since taking it everyday vs. once a week is supposed to have the same benefit. :)
hi Anita, can i drink the herbs chicken soup everyday?
Hi Dorres, yes you actually can, though from what has been passed down from my Grandma, our family only drink this once a week.
Hi Anita, Is number 7 really ginseng?
Yup, it's Korean red/panax ginseng that has been chopped to small pieces :)
I like soup
Hi, Is it okay for a pregnant person to drink this? My mom is pregnant with a boy, would this be okay and I want to make something for her. What would be a good soup to make and what should I make for her after birth? In korea, we make seaweed soup but what is the traditional chinese soup?
Hi Eunbi, this soup should be fine for pregnant ladies. But, it is best to consult with the doctor, just in case. Traditionally, after giving birth, the Chinese prepare chicken in chinese rice wine for the new Mom. Again, it is always best to consult doctor first since the norm may not apply to everyone :)
Hi Anita, your mom sounds just like my mom! Now that I'm living quite far from her I try to make my own herbal soups. Thanks to your recipes they're very helpful!
You must have a really sweet Mom then, Silvia :) I am glad the recipes are helpful.
Hi Anita, Is this a soup for general immunity? What soup would you recommend women to take while on their monthly period? Thank you.
Hi Kris, for monthly period, I usually just make a very simple chicken soup with jujube (hong zao), wolfberry (gou gi zi), and angelica root (dang gui). It is best if taken right at the end of the period. Hope this helps. Cheers! :)
Dan Creffield says:
Hi Anita, I would love to use this great recipe and the pic of the herbs in a magazine article I am putting together, of course would list your website as the source! Would this be OK? The magazine is here - it goes out to F&B industry professionals in Hong Kong and the region. http://www.angliss.com.hk/category/foodtalk/ Many thanks Dan
Sure Dan! Good luck with the article :)
Leanne Huynh says:
Hi Anita, Thanks for posting about this soup! My mom used to make this for me when I was a kid, but she passed away 7 years ago so I haven't had it in a very long time and didn't really know how to make it. Fortunately, the local Chinese supermarket had a bag that had this mix in it already! However, since I don't read Chinese, I didn't exactly know what the ingredients were in English so thank you for clarifying what I was eating, lol. Best, Leanne
You are welcome Leanne :) My local Chinese supermarket also carry prepackaged soup mix. But, since I make this quite frequently, I try to buy individual ingredients and make the mix myself and ends up cheaper :)
Hi Anita, Thank you for sharing this nutritious soup recipe. Will adding slices of ginger and using aluminum clad stainless steel pot reduce the efficacy of the herbs? When is the best time to drink this soup, before or after a meal? Many thanks, Eleanor
Hi Eleanor, I think adding ginger to the soup should be alright though I have never tried it so the taste may alter slightly. And I am sure it is perfectly okay to cook in an aluminum clad stainless steel pot :) Hm.. I usually have it with my meal, though I notice that most Chinese restaurants that I frequent typically serve herbal soup as first course.
Hi Anita Believe it or not ngpI usually Just make this into a tea For my before bed relaxation. I would to know what's in that makes me sleep so well? Or is it mind over matter? I am from Jamaica the Chinese in the family would make tonic soup with it.
Hi Talbert, this is the first time I have ever heard this soup made into tea. How interesting! And it is also new to me that the soup promotes good sleep since according to my Mom, this is supposed to boost one's energy, so I am guessing feeling wide awake is more the goal here, though a good sleep is not a bad thing. :)
Hi Anita, thank you very much for your blog. Is the chicken skinless? And with most soup recipes should the meat be skinless also?
Hi K, chicken is not skinless for this soup, and this is usually the case for most Chinese soup recipes, but it is okay to use skinless too if that is your preference.
Going to make this soup for our holistic medical center. It lists two kinds of ginseng– "Asian ginseng", and then it just says "ginseng". Do you mean American ginseng? Or just white Asian Ginseng? Thank you so much!! Roger
Hi Roger, I use two kinds of ginseng: white American ginseng, and red Korean ginseng. You can just use one type if that is easier.
Hi, Anita I am trisna and I came from Indonesia when I was at Singapore I do try this soup before, Love it so much! And Now finally I found The blogger , who's are like to sharing this kind of ingredients. So thank you allot for sharing your Amazing ingredients . God bless!
You are welcome Trisna. I hope you can recreate this soup in your own kitchen.
Hi Anita.. Do you simmer with or without the lid covered? Is it equally nutritious to drink the soup only without eating the chicken? Is it necessary to increase the simmer time since I only drink the soup? I dont like the texture of chicken in the soup since it's a bit dry..
Hi Annalia, I simmer with the pot covered with a lid. Supposedly, the soup is the most nutritious part and not the chicken after it's been cook, though I always eat the chicken too since it's such a waste to just throw it out. I don't think it is necessary to increase the cooking time, but if you want a super easy way to cook this, you can always use a slow cooker and cook it overnight.
Megumi Yamashita says:
Hello, I would like to know can we add ginger and garlic together with this? Is this almost the same like Bak kut teh ? If I add garlic will the taste will become different like less tasty or if I just use the listed ingredient is more better? Its my first time cook this.
Hi Megumi, it is best if you don't add garlic and ginger. The soup is not supposed to taste like bak kut teh :)
Can you recommend a website I can buy Chinese herbs online
99 Ranch has some online, though their brick-and-mortar stores are way more complete with more choices per ingredient. I have never tried other online sources, so I can't say if they are good or bad and I don't feel confident in recommending them.
Hi Anita, is it safe if I refrigerate the leftovers and have it the next day? Will the herbs be altered in any way?
Hi Kania, you can safely refrigerate the soup and reheat as needed. Back when I was still in college, my Mom used to cook a big pot of this and freeze the soup into portions and reminded me to drink one portion per week. :D
Do you use powdered ginseng or if it is the raw herb is there a weight that equals to volume to use
Hi Mandi, I don't use powdered ginseng. I simply place the ginseng slices into my tablespoon. If goes by weight, the total weight of ginseng used (yellow + red) is about 10 gram. I hope this helps.
Jusnemanwaty Osman says:
Hi . Thanks for your recipe. I love herbal chic soup. I really like the herbs. Can I add a lot of it? Rather than only a few slices ? Eg the roots and the juju berries and the dates. Is it ok if I use pressure cooker ?
Hi Jusnemanwaty, you can add more jujube and goji berries since these are mostly sweet and will add sweetness to your soup. The roots may make the soup slightly more bitter, but if you are used to the bitterness from Chinese herbs, you may actually like it more. :) And yes, you can always cook in a pressure cooker if you wish.
I love your recipes!Growing up on the farm in eastern Europe, I am used to herbal remedies and fresh farmed meat .I remember my grandparents and my parents using herbs for almost any ailments my brother and me had (thankfully, they were only a few)
Upon moving to the States I learned about traditional chinese remedies.So,I decided to mix my European herbs with the asian for an even better lifestyle.
I have pretty much everything on this list but the jujube and codonopsis. I have a korean store 5 minutes away,so hopefully I will be able to finish the list.
Thank you.I will check every recipe on your website as they look really delicious.
Hello Anita, thank you for sharing this recipe! When you say 10 codonopsis root, what does it mean? Do you mean 10 long roots? If you get a chance to write the recipe in grams/weight, that would be really helpful to us who are new to using Chinese herbs! I'm looking forward to making this!
Hi Nik, sorry for being unclear. It should be around 15 grams of codonopsis root. If your roots are long, you can cut them into shorter pieces. :)
Clara T says:
Thanks for the recipe! How would you adjust it for the Instant Pot or electric pressure cookers?
Hi Clara, I don't own an Instant Pot, but I found out how to cook this soup in an IP for you. Place all ingredients in into your IP and close the lid with steam release handle pointed to “Sealing”. Select “Soup”, high pressure cooking for 35 minutes. Press “Cancel”, quick release. Remove the lid. Press “Saute”, and cook for 10 minutes. I hope it helps. :)
Hi Anita, I love herbal soups and I have been making them all winter and now into spring. I have most of the ingredients on hand, but not the Korean ginseng. Do you think it would be okay to just add an extra 3 grams of American ginseng? Have you tried making soups with dried sea coconut? So delish with pork bones!
Hi Rochelle, yes, you can just add 3 extra grams of American ginseng. :)
Jane Doe says:
Thank you for your recipe! I am hoping these recipes will be good for my Chinese friend and help her conceive. Please post more recipes for Chinese herbal foods and soups! This recipe is great for people who can't read Chinese and want to make these authentic traditional dishes!
Samantha Wee says:
Thanks for sharing this! Do I have to blanch the chicken beforehand? I’ve been looking for herbal soup Singapore recipes to try making them myself once I finish my confinement. I am now having herbal soups almost everyday from my confinement meal caterer Tian Wei Signature, and I just love how herbal soups always warm my body up and improve my milk supply. Looking forward to trying your recipe!
Hi Samantha, I don't usually blanch the chicken, but you can do so if you wish. I usually blanch the meat first only when cooking pork soup. :)
Katherine Ngee says:
Enjoyed your recipe. I have been told partridge soup is good for a cough and phlegm. Do you have a recipe? Thanks.
Hi Katherine, I don't have it in my site, but you can give this apple herbal tea recipe for cough and phlegm a try. The blog owner is very knowledgeable about Chinese herbals.
Jane Doe says:
Hello, what are the main health benefits of this soup? Also, is it okay for men to have it as well?
I would say to just keep healthy in general, and yes the soup is good for both men and women. My Mom used to prepare this for us especially when she noticed we looked tired, like once we finished our final exams or something tiring like that. :)
Hi Anita is the chicken a necessary component of the soup? Would it be equally as beneficial to omit the chicken and cook the soup with just the herbs and drink it like tea?
Hi Jane, traditionally, we cook chicken soup with these traditional herbs. If you want to prepare it as tea, it should be workable too, but it will be a different recipe. I have never use these herbs for making tea, so I can't tell you the exact measurements.
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