Stewing Hen Soup (老母鸡煲汤)
December 17, 2022  Print
This is a great soup for when you are feeling under the weather. I had a pretty bad cold over the past two weeks. With both a cough and fatigue, I was desperately craving some warm chicken soup to soothe my congested sinus. This stewing hen soup came to the rescue. Besides a little bit of patience, this stewing hen soup doesn’t require much and is very easy to make. It requires so little effort. I mostly rested while waiting for it to stew.
Stewing hens are old egg-laying hens that have passed their prime egg-laying years. Their meat is much tougher than the young chicken meat that you might be used to. So it’s not recommended to use stewing hens to make regular chicken dishes.
For that reason, stewing hens are a great choice for making soups and braised dishes. You can find stewing hens in most Asian grocery stores. Some local butchers might sell them as well. If yours is especially large (that is, heavier than 2.5 pounds or 1.1 kg), you can chop it into pieces with a cleaver and only use half the hen to make this soup.
This stewing hen soup is a traditional Chinese-style soup. It’s very simple and easy to make, but as I mentioned above, it does take a while to complete. So be patient! You literally stew/cook the whole stewing hen for hours at a time and add some salt and other ingredients at the end. This long multi-hour simmering process allows the stewing hen’s flavor to get fully absorbed into the soup. The resulting soup has a clear color and a taste that I find super soothing and flavorful.
Some people like to chop the stewing hen into pieces and pan fry the pieces first with some ginger and green onion before simmering the meat. This can give the soup more fragrance. I’ve done it that way before as well but I find the difference is often not enough for me to expend the extra effort. So I usually opt for the simpler method of stewing the entire hen.
After hours of stewing, the stewing hen’s meat is still quite tight. My family usually only eats the legs and wings when consuming this soup. My kids in particular prefer to enjoy just the soup, without any solids. When I do consume the breast meat, I usually pair it with some added flavor, such as a dry spice rub.
You can use the stewing hen soup (before adding veggies or herbs) as chicken stock for a variety of dishes. For a standalone soup, I like to add some fresh Chinese yam, dried jujube, and dried goji. I find these additions make the soup more flavorful and interesting. These three side ingredients form a common combination for Chinese traditional soups. You should be able to find them in most Asian grocery stores, although I have even seen some Costco stores selling dried goji berries.
One benefit to making this soup is that stewing hens are typically much cheaper than young uncooked chickens. The stewing hen that is depicted here is one that I purchased from 99 Ranch for under 5 dollars, which is quite good in today’s inflationary environment. So don’t feel too bad for just drinking the soup if you prefer to discard the chicken meat.
If you like this soup, you will probably also like my pork bone soups. Start with my post on how to make pork bone stock.
Tool: stone pot, Dutch oven, or sauce pan (at least 1.5 quart)
Gluten Free, Low Carb
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 3.5 hours (mostly inactive)
Servings: ~2.5 quarts
- 1 stewing hen (1.5 – 2.5 lb) 1
- 1 medium or 2 small Chinese yam 2
- 1 1-inch long piece of ginger
- several dried jujube
- 1 tablespoon dried goji
- kosher or table salt
- Wash the stewing hen thoroughly. Use kitchen scissors or a knife to remove the rear and the two tips of the wings. Chop the ginger into slices. Put the stewing hen along with the ginger in a stone pot/Dutch oven/sauce pan and fill it with cold water. Cover the lid and set the heat to medium-high.
- When the liquid starts boiling, remove the lid. Use a skimmer to remove the foam floating on the top of the water. Cover the lid again and lower the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 hours.
- When the timer is almost up, peel and chop the Chinese yam into 1/4-inch slices. Add the Chinese yam to the chicken soup and cook for 5 minutes. Then rinse and add the dried jujube and goji berries to the pot. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Add enough salt to taste. Ladle the stewing hen soup into a soup bowl along with some Chinese yam, dried jujube, and goji berries. Enjoy while hot or warm!
- I got mine from 99 Ranch supermarket. You can also buy these from Weee! online or other Asian grocery stores. Some local butchers sell them as well. Make sure it’s stewing hens or old chicken (老母鸡) and not a young chicken or meat chicken.
- You can find Chinese yam in most Asian grocery stores. It has a subtle sweetness. It’s supposed to have many benefits including helping with congestion, which is why I added it to the soup to help with my cough. Make sure you only peel the skin right before adding the yam to the soup since it can change color after being exposed in the air for a while. The inner meat is a bit slippery and slimy to the touch. Make sure to wear some gloves if you are allergic to it.
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