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How to prepare the best chicken herbal soup (10 useful tips)

The last time I have chicken herbal soup seems eons ago. My mom would always boil the best soup for me.

Now, who is going to make this soup for me? 

So I took out the crockpot, which hasn’t been used for a long time. Remove all the stains, fix the loosened electric plug, and head over to the Chinese medical hall.

It is not that difficult to prepare after all.

Chinese-style chicken herbal soup is well-known for its health benefits.  You may equate it to vitamins supplements, but it also a delicious meal by itself. What you need is a chicken and a packet of mixed herbs, plus some salt to taste.

The soup recipe in this article is what we appreciate in my family for decades.

Here is a list of questions and answers covering all aspects of making chicken herbal soup. Don’t forget to check out the recipe at the end of this article.

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Chinese-style chicken herbal soup is well-known for its health benefits. Here is a list of questions and answers covering all aspects of making chicken herbal soup.

#1 What are the basic herbs for making Cantonese-style herbal soup?

There are a few hundred types of Chinese herbs, but only some are used in culinary.  Here is a list of the herbs I use in the following recipe, which are the most common herbs for making Chinese herbal soup:

Red dates (Hong Zao|红枣)

Red dates are slightly sweet and usually used together with goji berries for various soups and desserts. The soup prepared from red dates has a slight tinge of red. You may want to cut it into half to release the flavor if you do not intend to boil it for a long time. I did not cut it in this recipe as it will open up during prolonged boiling.

Angelica root (Dang Gui|当归)

Also called Angelica Sinensis, it has a slightly bitter but aromatic flavor.  It has long been used in a variety of herbal soups for women’s health and blood circulation.  However, it is safe to be consumed by both genders.

Astragalus Root (Huang Qi|黄芪)

This herb improves resistance and boosts the immune system. It also tastes slightly sweet.

Codonopsis Root (Dang Shen|党参)

It is a general tonic and with a sweet taste.

Chinese wild yam (Huai Shan|淮山)

It is sold as dried, thin slices but also available in its whole fresh form. It has a neutral flavor and a little starchy after cooking.

Soloman’s Seal (Yu Zhu|玉竹)

This herb is slightly yellowish and will curl up after cooking. I like this herb, and it’s very delicious with its slightly crunchy texture and sweet taste.

Goji berries (Gou Qi |杞子)

Also called wolfberries, it is sweet and also uses to make desserts. You can refer to the osmanthus jelly recipe, which uses plenty of goji berries.

Common herbs to make chicken herbal soup. Red dates (Hóng Zǎo|红枣), Angelica root (Dāng Guī|当归), Astragalus Root (Huáng Qí|黄芪), Codonopsis Root (Dǎng Shēn|党参), Chinese wild yam (Huái Shān|淮山), Soloman’s Seal (Yù Zhú|玉竹), Goji berries (Gǒu Qǐ |杞子)
Common herbs to make chicken herbal soup. Started from top left, then clockwise: Red dates (Hóng Zǎo|红枣), Angelica root (Dāng Guī|当归), Astragalus Root (Huáng Qí|黄芪), Codonopsis Root (Dǎng Shēn|党参), Chinese wild yam (Huái Shān|淮山), Soloman’s Seal (Yù Zhú|玉竹). The center one is Goji berries (Gǒu Qǐ |杞子).

#2 What meat is suitable for making herbal soup?

Chicken and pork are commonly used to make Chinese herbal soup.

I use small free-range chicken to make the soup, which perfectly fits my slow cooker without cutting the chicken. 

Besides that, you can also use silkie chicken to make soup. The skin of this chicken is black to bluish, and the meat is grayish-black. Therefore, it is also called black chicken|black bone chicken in Chinese. It tastes as good as free-range chicken and has more benefits as it is rich in antioxidants and other nutrients. You can read more about it over here.

Besides that, pork ribs are also popular to make soup with Chinese herbs.

#3 How to make a clean and clear soup?

An excellent chicken herbal soup should be clear and have minimum oil. Since most herbs have the minimum impact on the clarity of the soup, the cloudiness usually comes from the chicken. Therefore, it is vital to thoroughly clean the chicken (or pork) to remove the blood, impurities, and debris that might cause the soup to become murky. Here are the steps I use in the recipe:

  • Clean the chicken thoroughly under running water.
  • Remove all the giblets from the cavity of the chicken.
  • Cut off any excess fats and part of the skin to reduce the oil produced.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil, submerge the chicken, and boil it for two to three minutes until the debris and blood from the chicken float to the surface.
  • Remove the chicken from the stock pot, the rince the chicken under running water for the last time before making the soup.

You can use the same process to clean the pork instead of chicken.

#4 What are the seasonings required for making Chinese herbal soup?

The most basic chicken herbal soup does not require any seasoning except some salt. That is how we appreciate the essence of the chicken and the flavor resulting from the herbs. If you want it to be a little peppery, add a few white peppercorns to the soup while boiling. If you’re going to add some seasoning, I suggest adding a few drops of light soy sauce into the soup after transferring to the serving bowl.

#5 Does the pot used to boil the soup matter?

Clay, glass, and ceramic are best for making herbal soup because these are inert materials.  Besides that, stainless steel pot is also suitable, as it fits nicely on the flat stovetop.

Pots made with cast iron, aluminum, and copper are unsuitable as there might be some chemical interaction between these metals with the herbs, which can reduce the medicinal benefits.

You need to adjust the amount of water when boiling with the regular pot on the stovetop, as the water level drops much faster than using a slow cooker or pressure cooker.  I use a slow cooker/crockpot (made with ceramic) that does not have any noticeable water loss after simmering for two hours.

#6 How long should I boil the soup?

The time required to boil herbal soup depends on a few factors.

  • In gerenreal, it takes between 2-3 hours to boil it on the stovetop at barely simmering temperature, 2-8 hours with the slow cooker, and 20-30 minutes in a pressure cooker.
  • It also depends on whether you use chicken, pork or ribs. I boil this soup with the slow cooker for 2.5 hours, and the chicken meat is already nearly fall off the bone. You need to boil the pork longer until the meat is tender.
  • Please also note that the longer it boils, the darker the color of the soup will become.

#7 Where can I purchase the Chinese herbs?

You can get the Chinese herbs at the Chinese herbal stores/Chinese medical halls.  These shops are located in every nook and corner in Malaysia (where I live), but there might be fewer in other countries.  

There are also ready-to-use herbal soup packs available.  It has all the herbs required to make a pot of soup in one convenient package. Moreover, there are different types of soup mixes containing various herbs for various health benefits. They are sold in large grocery stores and supermarkets here, and I expect them to be available in most large cities.

If you cannot get these herbs from the store near you, please check out this website, an online store specializing in Chinese herbs.

Chinese-style chicken herbal soup is well-known for its health benefits. Here is a list of questions and answers covering all aspects of making chicken herbal soup.

#8 What is the difference between various types of Chinese herbal soup?

The herb combination in this recipe is for general health. I prepare this soup to enjoy the herbal taste and am not looking for any specific benefits.  You can ask any Chinese herbal practitioner to suggest a mix of herbs for the particular need.

I found a website that provides good information on a variety of Chinese herbs in English. It also provides some recipes for specific health benefits.

#9 Do I need to wash the herbs before boiling?

Most of the Chinese herbs that I encountered are pretty clean. If you are concern about the cleanliness, soak them in cold water for a few minutes, then fish out the herbs and drain. The flavor will not lose since it only soaks in water for a few minutes.

#10 What is the best way to enjoy the soup?

The flavor and aroma of chicken herbal soup is subtle. As such, the best way to enjoy it is to have it before eating any food with a strong flavor.  

You may want to discard some herbs that are not be eaten, such as Huáng Qí| and Dǎng Shēn.  I will leave the rest of the herb in the serving bowl with a piece of chicken.  Red dates, goji berries, Huái Shān and Yù Zhú are all delicious. 

Another way to serve is to use herbal soup as the base of soup noodles.  In this case, you may need to add more salt and light soy sauce to boost up the taste.

Other related recipes that you may want to try

You may also want to try other Chinese soups and dishes made with herbs on this blog. Here is my recommendation:

Old cucumber soup with pork ribs is among the most familiar soup on the Cantonese dining table. The main ingredients are old cucumbers, meaty pork ribs, and some dried scallops. Besides that, you also need some goji berries and red dates as in this herbal soup recipe.

The Winter melon soup recipe is the adaptation of my mother’s recipe, which she cooked for our family when I was young. You have the option to cook it, beginning from preparing the soup base or use the store-bought chicken broth for simplicity. Either way, this refreshing and comforting soup will be a hit for you and your family. 

Yield: 3 seervings

How to prepare the best chicken herbal soup (10 useful tips)

herbal soup thumbnail

Chinese-style chicken herbal soup is well-known for its health benefits.  You may equate it to vitamins supplements, but it also a delicious meal by itself. What you need is a chicken and a packet of mixed herbs, plus some salt to taste.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 organic chicken, either plain chicken or black bone chicken, about 1kg
  • 15g red dates/红枣
  • 5g Dāng Guī/当归
  • 5g Huáng Qí|黄芪
  • 15g Dǎng Shēn|党参
  • 15g Huái Shān|淮山
  • 15g Yù Zhú|玉竹
  • 1 tbsp goji berries/枸子
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Water sufficient to submerge the chicken

Instructions

  1. Clean the chicken thoroughly under running water. Remove the giblets and change the water several times until the water runs clear.
  2. Cut off the chicken feet nail and the extra fats of the chicken.
  3. Place the chicken in a pot of boiling water for three minutes. Remove and clear once more under running water. Drain.
  4. Soak the dried herbs in water for three minutes to remove any dirt and sand. Then pick up the herbs and set them aside.
  5. Place the chicken and all the herbs (except goji berries) in a pot. Add boiling water just enough to submerge all the ingredients.
  6. Simmer over low heat to simmer for 2.5 hours or until the chicken meat becomes very soft.
  7. Add the goji berries and salt.
  8. Simmer over very low heat for another 20 minutes. Serve.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

3

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 864mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 28g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 7/5/2021

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