This traditional Chinese chicken soup is simple yet flavourful and the perfect bone broth to have on a cold day to nourish your body and soul!
It's easy to make, delicate in flavour and nutritious so it's a winner all around!
A clear chicken soup like this one is fantastic served on its own, with a couple of scoops of rice or as a noodle soup base (like wonton noodle soup).
For more delicious Chinese soup recipes, also check out my Chinese pork bone soup, 20-min bok choy soup and 15-min chicken and corn egg drop soup!
What to serve with Chinese chicken soup
Authentic Chinese soups are typically clear and thinner than Western soups (eg. pumpkin and sweet potato soup). Of course, there are thick Chinese soups like sweet and sour soups and chicken and corn soups.
Soups like this one are typically served with a meal as a side.
For an easy light meal, I recommend adding a couple of scoops of steamed rice into a big bowl of this soup (make sure you get some of the carrots and chicken meat too). Alternatively, add some cooked noodles instead and have a side of sauteed veggies (eg. 10-min spinach stir fry).
Fun fact: did you know that in Mandarin, we say to 'drink' soup as opposed to 'eat' soup. I suppose this is because Chinese soups are generally very liquidy and lots of slurping happens!
- Chicken drumsticks (aka chicken legs) - a budget-friendly cut of chicken that has the best of both worlds: bones for the broth and lots of tender, fall-off-the-bone meat to eat! Substitute: a whole chicken.
- Goji berries - adds a touch of sweetness. Goji berries also has many health benefits so it's often added in nourishing Chinese chicken soups!
- Shaoxing wine - a staple condiment in Chinese cooking that adds subtle complexity to a dish. Substitute: dry sherry or white rice wine.
- Dehydrated shiitake mushrooms - an umami powerhouse that also adds a delicious aroma to the soup. It's very important to use dehydrated shiitake mushrooms as it's way more aromatic than fresh shiitake mushrooms. You can find these at Asian supermarkets.
- Ginger - adds a little bit of heat which will help warm the body up.
How to make a clear chicken broth
Below are two very important must-dos when making a clear bone broth:
- Remove impurities (a MUST!) - this traditional technique is used for not just bone soups, but also for braises too (like my Taiwanese braised pork rice and red braised pork belly). Skipping this step will result in a cloudy, almost murky, unappetising-looking soup or braise. We don't want that!
- Simmer long and slow - on the lowest heat and let time work its magic. The longer the soup is simmered, the better and more flavourful the soup will taste. The chicken bones will be able to release its bone broth goodness and the tender meat on the bone will just fall off easily.
To all my bone broth lovers out there, I highly recommend trying my Chinese pork bone broth. It's delicate with a subtle sweetness and really good for you too!
Now that we are clear on what makes a great Chinese chicken soup, let's get into it!
First, add chicken drumsticks into a large pot with a lid (one that can fit at least 5.5 litres or 6 quarts) then fill it up with cold water until all of the chicken is fully submerged.
Bring the pot up to a boil over high heat, with no lid. This will take about 10 minutes.
As you can see in picture #2 below, lots of impurities/scum will float to the top with the water looking all cloudy.
These impurities, although completely safe to consume, are no good for clear chicken soups.
Discard the water down the drain, rinse the chicken drumsticks under the tap to rinse off any impurities attached and wash the pot clean.
It's equally important to wash the pot at this stage as bits of scum will become attached to the sides of the pot.
Now, you can begin to simmer the soup. Add chicken back into the pot and fill it up with water all the way to the top with ~5cm (a couple of inches) to spare. That's about 3 litres (3 quarts) of water for every 1kg (2lbs) of chicken drumsticks.
The amount of water to add does not have to be super precise, this recipe will work just fine with up to 4 litres (4 quarts) of water.
Too much water will dilute the bone broth. If you're using a large stock pot, just double or triple the amount of ingredients, depending on how much you want to make.
Simmer long and slow
Add fresh ginger slices, dehydrated shiitake mushrooms, dehydrated goji berries, shaoxing wine and salt.
Bring up to a boil over high heat then simmer over the lowest heat possible with the lid on for 1.5 hours.
Switch the pot to the smallest stovetop to maintain a constant gentle simmer.
After 1.5 hours of gentle simmering, add carrot chunks then put the lid back on and simmer for 30 minutes.
That's it! Give the soup a taste and adjust for more salt if desired.
Simple and nourishing clear Chinese chicken soup done in just over 2 hours with minimal prep.
You'll find quite a bit of chicken fat floating at the top. If you want, scoop it off using a ladle or a large spoon until you're satisfied.
If you're using this chicken soup broth as a base for noodle soups, I suggest keeping some of the fat as it'll work great with noodles!
See how tender, fall-off-the-bone the meat is!?
Useful tips and tricks
- Season with extra salt if adding rice or noodles to the soup. Taste the soup and you'll find you'll most likely will want to season it with a little more salt.
- Before serving, pull the chicken meat off the bones, discard the chicken skin and add the meat back into the soup. This way you won't have to fiddle around with the drumsticks when having the soup in your bowl.
- Peel and cut off the chicken skin before cooking. This way, by the time the soup is ready, there will be no excess fat to scoop out if you prefer the low-fat option. However, remember that chicken fat does add flavour to the soup!
Absolutely! It's packed with gelatinous collagen that has many health benefits (you can find lots of information online on the benefits of bone broths). This nutritious chicken soup also has lots of tender chicken meat (protein) and carrots (fibre).
Not much! Just a few simple ingredients like chicken with bones and lots of water. Check out the full list of ingredients in the recipe card below
Some Chinese soups like the classic chicken and corn egg drop soups are thick soups. The trick is to add cornstarch mixed in cold water to thicken it!
Slow cooker method
Want to make this Chinese chicken soup in the slow cooker (crockpot)? No worries!
Simply follow the instructions as per the recipe card below and at step 3, add the chicken, water and ingredients to a slow cooker instead.
Slow cook on the low heat setting for about 8 hours. You may wish to use hot water to help speed up the simmering process.
After 8 hours, add carrots and slow cook on low for a further hour or until the carrots are tender.
Leftovers and storage
Great news! This Chinese chicken soup tastes even better the next day (like my Chinese pork bone soup and any slow-cooked meat dishes).
You'll find the soup will turn gelatinous and all jiggly once it's been in the fridge. This is a sign that the bone broth was made successfully - the chicken bones did their job!
Store in airtight containers for up to 7 days in the fridge and up to 12 months in the freezer.
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you. 🙂
Chinese Chicken Soup (Bone Broth)
- 1 kg (2 lb) chicken drumsticks aka chicken legs (note 1)
- 5 dehydrated shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tablespoon dehydrated goji berries
- 6 cm (2 in) fresh ginger cut into thin slices
- 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine substitute: dry sherry
- ½ tablespoon salt to taste
- 3 carrots cut into chunks
- In a large pot with a lid (one that can fit at least 5.5 litres or 6 quarts), add chicken drumsticks and enough cold water to cover the chicken. Bring the pot up to a boil over high heat. Will take about 10 minutes.
- There will be plenty of impurities/scum floating at the top with the water appearing cloudy. Discard the water, rinse the chicken drumsticks under the tap to remove any impurities attached and wash the pot clean. (note 2)
Make the chicken soup
- Return the chicken drumsticks to the pot with ~3 litres (3 quarts) of water. Add shiitake mushrooms, goji berries, ginger slices, shaoxing wine and salt.
- Bring up to a boil over high heat then reduce to the lowest heat possible to a simmer (note 3). Simmer with the lid on for 1.5 hours.
- Add carrots, bring up to a boil then simmer over the lowest heat possible with the lid on for a further 30 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust for salt to taste if desired.
- Optional: skim off excess fat with a ladle.
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