Fresh spinach

Ingredient Name:  Fresh Spinach

Traditional Chinese Name: 菠菜 (bō cài)

What is this?

  • A dark green, leafy vegetable that is used in all cuisines around the world
  • Spinach can be eaten cooked or raw
  • There are variants of the spinach which are available in the wet mart or your local supermarket, but in general they have large leaves and a shorter, stumpier stem (all parts are edible)
  • In Chinese cuisine, spinach is more commonly cooked as a vegetable dish versus a soup dish, but on occasions you will find spinach used in stews
  • Spinach does leave a grainier taste in your mouth (both in dishes and soups)

How do I prepare it?

  • Rinse well in cool water removing all debris
  • To keep the spinach fresh and crisp, store in the fridge after rinsing (prior to use)

Where can I buy this?

  • Most supermarkets will carry this

What is the cost?

  • In Hong Kong, 1 catty costs around $15 HKD
  • The cost will vary depending on whether it’s organic, the make of spinach and how in season they are in general at the time of purchase

Any benefits?

  • Spinach is extremely high in nutritional value and is rich in iron, Calcium C and antioxidants (great for fighting free radicals who increase signs of aging)
  • This vegetable is also an excellent source of fibre
  • Spinach improves blood glucose levels, lowers the risk of cancer, lowers blood pressure, and improving bone health

Any precautions?

  • Spinach is known to increase gout, so caution should be taken with those who have gout


Cabbage (Fresh)

Ingredient Name: Cabbage, white cabbage

Chinese Name: 捲心菜 (juǎn xīn cài)

A very versatile ingredient which I love to put in soups, stews and fried dishes.  It’s high in fiber and easily absorbs the flavor of whatever ingredients you put into the dish.  I especially love it when the cabbages becomes soft and you eat it like a meal (in soups).   Definitely one of my stock vegetables to have in the fridge and they actually last for awhile if you forget about it!  HAHA….

What is this?
  • A leafy vegetable that is often greenish-white in color.  There is also a purple variety that is produced for consumption.
  • It is a layered vegetable with a short stem
  • A popular good common to Central and Eastern Europe
  • It is grown as a “head” and therefore looks like a head
  • It has quite a substantial weight for its size as the vegetable is quite dense
  • There are various types of cabbage (long, short, various colors) and most of them are grown in China

How do I prepare it?

  • Peel each leaf and rinse in cold water
  • Usually the outer leaves are not used if they are floppy or unhealthy looking
  • Cut in edible pieces if necessary (see picture below)

Where can I buy this?

  • Available in fresh marts in Hong Kong
  • Also available fresh in supermarkets

What is the cost?

  • 1 cabbage as pictured above cost $6 HKD

Any benefits?

  • Excellent source of Vitamin C
  • Contains significant amount of an amino acid that has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Cabbage is known to slow down the growth of cancerous cells

Any precautions?

  • Cabbages are known to have infestation of various insects and pests so be sure to peel each leaf and rinse thorough in cold water

Any substitutes?

  • In soups and stews, can be replaced with zucchini or cauliflower and other relatively “dry” vegetables (unlike lettuce that when fried, emits water)

Whole Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Soup Name:
Whole Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Traditional Chinese Name: 雞菜湯 (jī cài tāng)


I don’t know if it’s classified entirely as a Chinese soup, but it’s delicious!  It’s similar to this version of Chicken and Veggies Soup, except it’s a more “old fire” soup because it’s boiled for much longer.  There are no herbal additives or Chinese medicine included in this soup, but it is super sweet and extremely tasty.  The Chinese often use a whole chicken, including the feet, heart, liver, neck and everything in between.

1 fresh whole chicken
3 large carrots
2 fresh corn
1 small stalk of celery
2 potatoes
1 onion (fresh)
2 tomatoes

2-3 L of water

How do I prepare it

  1. Blanch fresh chicken in a pot of boiling water
  2. Boil your soup water
  3. Prepare all the vegetables by washing and cutting into edible portions
  4. When water boils, add all the ingredients together
  5. Boil on high for 30 minutes and reduce to simmering for another 1.5 hours
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Any benefits?

  • Easy to make and delicious
  • Neutral soup that is ideal for any drinker
  • Excellent source of fiber and nutrition

Any precautions?

  • The use of fresh chicken in the soup can create an oily film on the surface of the soup.  Use an oil strainer to remove any excess oil before serving.

See also:

Pumpkin (Chinese)

Ingredient Name: Pumpkin (Chinese variety)

Traditional Chinese Name: 南瓜 (nán guā)

The Chinese pumpkin is similar to the Japanese pumpkin in taste and do produce a very similar sweetness to soups.  It’s a great texture to eat when boiled soft and packed with nutrients.  Not always the easiest ingredient to find (even in wet marts), but if you can find it fresh and available, pick one up!

What is this?
  • A gourd that is part of the squash family
  • This type of pumpkin is seedless and come in relatively large sizes
  • There are a variety of pumpkins that come in skin colours of orange, yellow, green, white, red and gray
  • They are cooked in a variety of ways:  boiled, in pies, soups, cakes, cookies, seeds, fried, baked, steamed, desserts
  • Pumpkins provide a good source of carbohydrates and are extremely high in Vitamin A, C,  and betacartone (the stuff that’s good for your eyes)

How do I prepare it?

  • Cut the pumpkin into halves and quarters first using a large knife
  • You can then slowly peel away the skin by resting the pumpkin flat on one-side and slicing away the skin
  • Some people will boil the skin with the soup (although this completely up to you)

Where can I buy this?

  • Most asian supermarkets will carry Chinese pumpkin
  • Your local wet mart will also carry it

What is the cost?

  • On average, a half-sized Chinese pumpkin will cost $20-$25 HKD (as pictured above in size)

Any benefits?

  • Pumpkins are extremely high in Vitamin A, C, and beta-carotene
  • They are a good source of carbohydrates

Any precautions?

  • Be careful of cutting pumpkins, it is not an easy task


Chicken and Veggies – Soup for Beginners

Soup Name:  Chicken and Veggies – Soup for Beginners

Traditional Chinese Name: 雞菜湯 (jī cài tāng)

We often hear that, although people enjoy drinking Chinese soups, they would never make it by themselves because it’s “too hard”.   Here is a super simple soup that takes the “scariness” out of chinese-soup making because it demonstrates how easy chinese-style soups can be.   The style is similar to how we make most chinese soups, but it contains no chinese-specific ingredients!  To make it more “chinese”, simply add chinese mushrooms to your veggie mix.

I recently made this soup for my toddler who, being so young, is definitely a beginner to soups.   She loved the bite-sized vegetables which were soft and easy to munch.  The clear broth was also good for her suspicious mind since she could clearly see everything she was eating.

What Ingredients are required?
Chicken – any chicken (whole, thighs, wings, feet, etc…)
Veggies – any veggies (carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, chinese mushrooms, etc…)

How do I prepare it?

  1. Boil 2 – 3 L of water
  2. Wash and chop all vegetables (bite-sized pieces are great for children who are more likely to eat the pieces which fit in their mouth)
  3. Put in the chicken
  4. Put in the vegetables
  5. Cover and boil for one hour (or more for softer veggies)
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Any benefits?

  • Easy and delicious
  • A neutral soup; suitable for everyone
  • Can be high in fiber (simply add more veggies!)