Black Chicken Soup

Black Chicken Soup

When I moved to the U.S. in 2000, my mother cooked me “black chicken soup” before I left in order to fortify me against the New England winters. She made it three times – and by the third round, I just couldn’t take it anymore and asked her to stop. There’s only so much hot herbal soup you can take in the tropics. However, I did NOT catch a cold for nearly two years.

Since then, I try to brew it for myself at least once a season (more if I feel especially depleted) and I am frequently asked how to do it. I finally got a chance to photograph the process, so here it is – step-by-step pictures on how to brew yourself a Chinese herbal formula, the traditional way. Read the captions for instructions.

Most kids raised in Chinese families will recognize this type of soup as part of meals in their household. Now I drink the liquid and save the chicken although I used to eat it like a stew… because someone else in my house likes it. 🙂 Guess who?

P.S. Samantha and Elizabeth, this one’s for you.

The ingredients

I picked up Tian Ma Dang Gui Tang but you can use pretty much any other tonifying formulas like Si Wu Tang or Shi Quan Da Bu Tang.

Pre-packaged formula available at Asian supermarket
Pre-packaged formula available at Asian supermarket which has instructions and the herbs’ names on the side
Silky chicken
This is what the silky chicken looks like, available frozen from Asian supermarkets. Note the text: “Head and feet attached”
Dry herbs
I like to add red and black dates as well as goji berries. They add sweetness and harmonize the ingredients.

Cooking (or as we like to say, decocting) the herbs

Soaking herbs
Soak dry herbs for 15-30 minutes before boiling
Milo likes silky chicken
Milo hangs around the kitchen wondering when he can have the chicken – my tonified pup!
Add chicken and enough water to submerge most of the meat
Add chicken and enough water to submerge most of the meat
Simmer broth for about an hour, partly uncovered
Simmer broth for about an hour, partly uncovered
Reduced broth
The reduced broth is earthy, somewhat gamey and slightly sweet.
Liquid reduced to just under two cups
Liquid should be reduced to around two cups.


After cooking

Take out the liquid and add water for another simmer. You should end up with about 4 cups of the broth, 2 for each decoction. I strain the solids out although it is perfectly fine to eat the chicken if you like it.

Let the liquid cool and refrigerate if you’re not drinking it right away. I generally portion out one cup each time, heat it up and drink it at least once a day.

Bottoms up!

2 thoughts on “Black Chicken Soup”

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! You put some of my Chinese friends to shame. A lot of them won’t even touch this and it’s soooo good for you.

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