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.
If you prefer Chinese sweet/dessert soups, you may want to try some of these instead:
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