Soup Name: Chicken and Veggies – Soup for Beginners
Traditional Chinese Name: 雞菜湯 (jī cài tāng)
Introduction: 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?
Boil 2 – 3 L of water
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)
Put in the chicken
Put in the vegetables
Cover and boil for one hour (or more for softer veggies)
A very traditional Chinese soup that is ideal for the cold winter months and improving body immune system. You can use a variety of ginseng (Korean and American are most common) and a variety of sizes of ginseng. It is a simple soup to make that is slightly sweet with a hint of bitterness and extremely beneficial to all body organs. I make this soup without added pork (like some recipes call for). I know the soup isn’t ask sweet or as rich, but if you reduce the level of water, it gives you a clear, healthy broth. With a sprinkle of salt (in moderation), the soup is ready for serving.
There are actually a variety of ways to make this soup. You will also find variations where people add different herbal ingredients for targeting different parts of the body. Regardless, here is a base in which to start your greatest soup creations (of course being careful of what types of herbs you use and being careful how you mix them).
Wash and prepare chicken by cutting into quarters (remove organs)
Blanch chicken in a pot of hot water
In a separate pot of water, add all the ingredients together.
Cook over high heat for 30 minutes.
Reduce to low heat and simmer for 2 hours.
Ready to serve!
This soup is considered a warm soup and particularly warming in the winter months
Ginseng can help improve body immune system and metabolism
The Chinese believe that your body is either “cool” or “warm”. Some “warm” bodied people can’t consume too much warm foods as it makes them even more warm. The idea is to balance the ying and yang in the body
Fish stomach does not have a strong taste and is usually combined with another meat, using the other meat (chicken or pork) as the base flavour for the broth. It is not uncommon to occasionally combine different meats in soups together for added flavour and nutritional benefits.
The fish stomach makes for a very rich broth that tastes delicious when combined with ginger and the natural sweetness of dried longan. A great winter or fall soup.
Ah! The chicken! For Chinese soups, there are a few types of chicken available. Let’s talk about chickens.
The standard white chicken (pictured above). This is your normal chicken which is readily available in all supermarkets. They come in various cut and part, or as one whole chicken (literally). I actually prefer the whole chicken because you can prepare it any way you like.
The second type of chicken that’s most common in Chinese soups is the black silkie chicken (see below). This chicken is the dark-skinned version of the two and more potent in its yang qi (or warmth). This is the chicken of choice for healing or confinement soup recipes and usually come as a whole chicken.
Then you have the variations of the two in terms of size, location of birth, and how they were raised (some are free range, some are not, some are smaller fowls, some are hens, or the different types of breeds).
How do I prepare it?
To use for soups, think about the size and usage of the chicken. In most Chinese soups, the meat isn’t always eaten, but I don’t like to waste, so will quarter them and serve as part of the deal to be dipped in soy sauce. What I’ll usually save is the breast (for another meal) and use the legs, feet, head, neck, and bones in the soup.
Pat dry the chicken before you cut it. You don’t need to wash the chicken before hand, this is what blanching is for.
Cut off the feet first and also can remove the nails from the feet
Cut your chicken into pieces (I usually do quarters)
Some people prefer to skin the chicken and make the soup without the skin and reduce the amount of fat by trimming any fat off the chicken first
Put on a pot of separate boiling water and drop the chicken in for 7-9 minutes or until the water re-boils. This will help eliminate some of the fat, bone bits, blood, and any foam to produce a clean soup later on.
Where can I buy it and cost?
This will definitely vary depending on where you buy it and how the chicken was raised.
In Canada, it can be as cheap as $12 CAD per whole white chicken and $18 CAD per silkie chicken.
In Hong Kong, wet marts sell them for around $80-100 HKD per chicken, depending on weight. I don’t see live chickens much anymore in Hong Kong and the vendor will help you prepare it by chopping it and cleaning it, so you can definitely request this.
Worst case is to use chicken parts (I usually keep some legs lying around in the freezer just in case).
Boiled white meat is healthier to consume than red meats
Using the whole chicken (bones and all) helps with providing collagen
Skinless and boiled chicken is a great low-fat protein. It is lower in calories, fats and saturated fats than most other meats
Chicken is extremely dense in nutrients, including protein, zinc, iron, phosphorous, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin
In TCM, the chicken is considered the warmer of the meats, replenishing yang qi and nourishing the blood.
Wash your hands and cutting utensils thoroughly after handling raw poultry to avoid cross-contamination like salmonella
Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?
This is a great starter video to build our your basic Chinese soup pantry. A handful of these ingredients are actual amazing with one simple chicken. It’s your basic Chicken Herbal Soup here!