Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom Soup

Every culture seems to have its own version of chicken soup, and this is the Taiwanese version that both my mom and grandmother would frequently make. Aside from the chicken, there are only 4 other ingredients: water, rice wine, salt, and shiitake mushrooms. So simple, it's really hard to screw up, UNLESS you fail to achieve a super-clear broth by either omitting the blanching of the chicken, dispensing with the skimming of the  soup while the chicken is cooking, or forgetting to keep the heat on low/simmer during the bulk of the cooking time. Hmmm...ok, I take it back: you CAN screw this up. But if you take the time to follow the steps for this recipe, you'll be rewarded with a soup that tastes like the simple, unadulterated essence of chicken, with just a hint of earthiness from the shiitake mushrooms. According to my mom, and I'm sure every other Chinese mom out there, this soup is a panacea for many ills, but is especially helpful in alleviating the symptoms of a cold or sore throat. Since I just had surgery a little over a week ago, I've had a lingering sore throat and have definitely been under the weather, so as my first post-surgical venture into the kitchen, I decided to make a small pot of this soup (as I'm restricted from lifting anything over 10 lbs. at this time). 

1 2 1/2-3 lb. whole chicken (or you can substitute with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs)
1/4 - 1/2 cup of Chinese rice wine (Michiu)
8-10 dried Shiitake mushrooms
1-2 tsp. salt, or to taste

*NOTE: Cubed daikon radish also works well in this soup (add about 20-30 minutes before the end of cooking). For noodle soup, you can also add a bit of cellophane noodles, again towards the end of cooking time.

1. Bring a medium stock pot full of water to a boil (pot should be large enough to hold the chicken). Carefully place the chicken into the boiling water and blanch for 3-5 minutes. This effectively "cleans" the chicken, as some of the blood will cook and surface to the top of the water as a whitish scum (sounds nasty, but this happens when you boil any kind of meat in a liquid). 

2. Pour off the water from the stock pot and fill with fresh water (enough to just cover the chicken). Turn up heat to high and bring the water back up to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer about 1 hour. During this time, periodically check the stock and continue skimming off any skum or excess oil that floats the top. 

3. After one hour, add the rice wine, salt and dried shiitake mushrooms. Cover and continue cooking on simmer for another hour. 

4. Remove chicken to a cutting board and when cool enough to handle, remove the skin, and then tear off meat in large bite-sized pieces from the bones. Return chicken meat to the soup stock and simmer, covered another 10 minutes. If you're using drumsticks or chicken thighs instead of whole chicken, you can omit this step.

This is a whole "Supreme" chicken that my mom bought from the Chinese market.  She says that this is or is similar to Taiwan 'country chicken' aka "Tu Ji." It still has the head and feet left on it, which may freak out the uninitiated. Needless to say, headless, feetless chicken are a perfectly acceptable substitute :) 'Tu Ji' is a bit leaner than the average supermarket chicken, so the meat is generally tougher. The longer you cook it though, the more tender it will be. 

Blanch the chicken 3-5 minutes in a pot of boiling water, pour out the water, then add enough fresh water to cover. Bring water back up to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer chicken for an hour. 

Chinese rice wine and dried shiitake mushrooms.

While chicken is simmering, remove any scum or oil that comes up to the top.

After an hour of simmering, add 1/4-1/2 cup of rice wine (according to your taste).

Add 1-2 tsp. of salt and the dried shiitake mushrooms. Cover and continue cooking on simmer for another hour.

Remove whole chicken to a chopping board, let cool slightly (easier to handle), and remove the meat into largish, bite-sized pieces. If using chicken thighs/drumsticks, you can omit this step.

Return the chicken meat to the stock, cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Before serving, taste the stock and add a little more salt, if needed (I like this soup on the less salty side).

Serve piping hot!


  1. Hi, I get directed to this page when I click on "Steamed Ground Pork with Fermented Black Beans". Where can I find the recipe for this pork dish?

  2. superbadkitty, oops! Wrong link, so I've corrected it - my bad!