Learn how to prepare Chinese six herb/six flavor soup (六味汤), also known as ching po leung (清补涼). Choose between pork ribs soup and dessert soup version.
Traditional Chinese soups rely on dried Chinese herbs. There are many Chinese soups where almost everything is made up of dried ingredients and only one type of meat is used like chicken or pork. Take this 六味汤/lak bi theng/six herbs/six flavors soup for example, the soup is cook with pork and a set of six dried herbs. As you can imagine, as long as you have a stash of Chinese dried ingredients stashed in your pantry, you can very easily prepare a pot of delicious Chinese soup. ♥
Which Chinese dried ingredients do I need to prepare 六味汤/six flavors soup?
There is a set of Chinese herbs that make up a typical six flavors soup. You will need:
- Chinese yam (怀(淮)山 - huai shan), if you are familiar with Japanese nagaimo, this is basically the dried version of the same yam.
- lotus seed (莲子 - lian zi)
- lily bulb (百合 - bai he)
- fox nut (芡实 - qian shi)
- Solomon’s seal rhizome (玉竹 - yu zhu), and
- dried longan (桂圓/龙眼 - gui yuan/long yan)
Optional add-on ingredients
Aside from the stated six ingredients above, some people love adding even more ingredients to create their own signature herbal mix. If you wish, you can add some of the followings into your soup:
- job’s tear barley (薏米/薏仁 - yi mi/yi ren), also known as hato mugi in Japanese.
- apricot kernels (南北杏 - nan bei xing), 南/south is the sweet version, and 北/north is the bitter version. I prefer the south version.
- ginkgo nuts (白果 - bai guo)
- goji berries (枸杞 - gou qi)
- red dates/jujubes (红枣 - hong zao)
- honey dates (蜜枣 - mi zao)
- ginger slices
How to prepare the dried ingredients?
Prior to using most Chinese dried ingredients, it is best if you can wash each of the ingredients separately to remove dirt, and then soak each ingredient in separate bowls. I usually soak the ingredients the night before I plan to cook the soup, but if you forget to do so, even a one hour soak is much better than no soaking time.
Six herbs soup (六味汤) = ching po leung (清补涼)
Recently I paid a visit to my neighborhood Chinese grocery store. It is a rather big store and its Chinese herb section is rather complete. As I was trying to replenish my supplies for this soup, I spotted a prepackaged soup called 清补涼- ching po leung, which has almost exactly the same ingredients as my Mom’s typical six herbs soup! The package is rather small, and it comes with everything I use in my six flavors soup except for dried longan. Instead of dried longan, it has job’s tear barley. When I reached home, I did a bit of research and found out that indeed, ching po leung is another name for six herbs/flavors soup. So, if you don’t plan to prepare this soup often, or if it’s too much of a hassle to hunt down individual ingredients for this soup, feel free to buy the prepackaged version. You can even buy prepackaged ching po leung soup online.
Sweet version: Six herbs sweet soup (六味糖水)
You can make the sweet version of 六味汤. Basically you will use the exact same set of six dried ingredients, plus your choice of sweeteners (e.g. rock sugar), and any add-ons that you wish. Here is how to do it:
- Use the same amount of dried igredients and water as per this recipe.
- Boil water and dried ingredients, then cover the pot and simmer until everything is soft and tender. About 2 hours.
- Add rock sugar, or other sweetener of your choice. I usually use 100 gram or rock sugar, but do add as much as you need.
The sweet version of this soup can be served hot, at room temperature, or even cold. So this is a nice dessert soup to make year round.
Other Chinese soups you may want to try
If you love classic Chinese soups like this, you may want to try some of my recipes on traditional Chinese soups.
- apple herbal soup (苹果汤)
- chicken herbal soup
- chicken ginseng soup
- lotus root and peanuts soup (莲藕花生汤)
- snow fungus and ginseng soup (白木耳汤)
- watercress and pork soup
- winter melon soup (冬瓜汤)
If you prefer Chinese sweet/dessert soups, you may want to try some of these instead:
Chinese Six Herbs Pork Rib Soup
- Chinese dried ingredients
- 4 pieces (20 gram) Chinese yam (Chinese: 怀(淮)山 - huai shan)
- 4 tablespoon (35 gram) lotus seeds (Chinese: 莲子 - lian zi)
- 4 tablespoon (25 gram) lily bulbs (Chinese: 百合 - bai he)
- 4 tablespoon (40 gram) fox nuts (Chinese: 芡实 - qian shi)
- 4 tablespoon (15 gram) Solomon seal rhizome (Chinese: 玉竹 - yu zhu)
- 4 tablespoon (30 gram) dried longan (Chinese: 桂圓/龙眼 - gui yuan/long yan)
- Option 1: Six herbs pork ribs soup (savory version)
- 450 gram (1 lb.) pork ribs, cut into bite sizes
- 1 1/2 liter (6 cup) water
- 2 teaspoon salt
- Option 2: Six herbs sweet soup (sweet/dessert version)
- 1 1/2 liter (6 cup) water
- 75-100 gram rock sugar, or to taste
- Rinse and drain all the dried herbs to remove dust and dirt. Soak each ingredient in separate bowls for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
- Option 1 (savory soup): Boil a pot of water and blanch pork ribs for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the pork ribs with cold running water. This step is optional, but if you do this, your soup will have a clear broth.
- Place all ingredients in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, with the lid on. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- Option 2 (sweet soup): Boil together all the dried ingredients and water. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, with the lid on.
- Once the dried ingredients are soft and tender to your liking, add rock sugar and stir until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat. The sweet soup version can be served hot, at room temperature, or chilled.