Nourishing Chicken Herbal Soup
On cold days, few things are more appreciated than making chicken herbal soup for those you care about, and it’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular comfort foods in China. While in many countries, chicken soup is an at-home remedy used to ward off colds, the Chinese take chicken soup to another level by adding TCM herbs, creating a flavorful, nourishing tonic that is most often consumed during cold, damp days to boost immunity and revitalize the mind and body. This soup also improves my sleep!
Herbal soups are common in the Cantonese region, where many drink them on a daily basis. There are numerous takes on chicken herbal soup, with many recipe books available specifically dedicated to this dish, but what you may not realize is that Asian grocery stores sell pre-packaged bags of dried herbs for tonic soup, usually just for a few dollars! Buy a few and keep it in your pantry.
You can find them online too by searching “Chinese herbal soup mix” (avoid "Si Wu" soup which is specifically for PMS relief). They will usually contain a combination of bitter and sweeter herbs/fruits (like goji, longan, lotus seeds, monkfruit, jujube), and possibly ginseng and lingzhi (reishi). The last two are excluded from most mixes due to the high cost—dang shen is usually added in as a ginseng substitute, also being a “qi tonic” herb. I always add in a bit of reishi to my soup.
EASY-TO-MAKE CHICKEN HERBAL SOUP (serves 4):
2 bone-in chicken thighs
3-4 slices ginger
2 scallion, chopped
1 bag Chinese herbal soup mix
1 tbsp Goji berries
6g Reishi (optional)
5 cups water
1. Wash herbs in cold water (do not soak)
2. Blanch chicken in a pot of boiling water until brown foam comes out. Remove quickly and transfer chicken into soup pot
3. Add herbs (except goji berries), ginger, and scallion, and 5 c water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 min
4. Add goji berries. Simmer for another 30 min
5. Season with salt. Shred chicken and add back in to pot, then garnish with freshly chopped scallion and serve. Enjoy!
Note: harder herbs (like reishi) are not meant to be ingested