Chicken Soup with Ginger and Shiitake Mushrooms

Chicken soup doesn’t need to take hours to make. This is a simple, light chicken soup that is richly flavored with shiitake mushrooms, and brightened with fresh ginger and soy sauce. The stock is very light, and comes just from the cooking of the ingredients for less than half an hour. But the combination of the ginger, chicken, mushrooms, soy sauce and a touch of salt and sugar is just lovely, and I highly recommend trying this soup. The recipe is an adaptation of one I discovered in a most curious cookbook, The Cultural Revolution Cookbook by Sasha Gong and Scott Seligman. One doesn’t usually think of this rather painful period of Chinese history, when millions of Chinese urban youth, children of “intellectuals,” were forced into the countryside to work as farmers, for its culinary legacy. But during this period, people learned to make do, and to create nourishing, satisfying food from simple, local ingredients.

The original recipe, upon which this one is based, is for “Steamed Ginger and Mushroom Chicken”. The recipe required a bamboo steamer and wok, neither of which we had, so we decided to make our own version. Same ingredients, somewhat different method.

After the heaviness of holiday food, this one is especially refreshing. Enjoy!

Chicken Soup with Ginger and Shiitake Mushrooms Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4.

Typically for this recipe one would use bone-in chicken thighs hacked into big pieces with a cleaver, or with poultry shears. The bones help create flavor and richness for the stock. You can use boneless chicken thighs if you prefer. Or use bone-in, and then remove the bones after the chicken has cooked, before serving.



  • 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (dried is much preferable to fresh in this recipe)
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, preferably bone-in, cut into chunks
  • A 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch


1 Soak the mushrooms in the hot water for 20 minutes. Use a bowl or a smaller pot to keep the mushrooms submerged in the water.

2 While the mushrooms are soaking, mix the soy, sugar, salt and corn starch in a large bowl. Make sure there are no corn starch lumps. Add the chicken and ginger to the bowl, toss to coat with the marinade, and set aside.

3 When the mushrooms have softened, remove from the water (saving the soaking liquid) and slice thin. Add the mushrooms into the bowl with the chicken. If the soaking water has grit in it, pour the soaking water though a fine-meshed sieve lined with a paper towel into another bowl.

4 Put the chicken mushroom mixture, and the mushroom soaking liquid into a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a bare simmer, cover the pot and cook gently for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

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Adapted from "Steamed Ginger and Mushroom Chicken" in The Cultural Revolution Cookbook by Sasha Gong and Scott Seligman.


Healthy Chinese Chicken Soup - from Steamy Kitchen
Sichuan Style Chicken Noodle Soup - from Appetite for China
Mushroom Chicken - from Rasa Malaysia
The Cultural Revolution Cookbook website
Wikipedia on the Cultural Revolution

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Showing 4 of 43 Comments

  • Lori

    This looks so delicious! I love ginger and usually have some tea or broth with it almost every day. I’m definitely going to check out the Cultural Revolution cookbook.

  • Judith

    What is the purpose of the cornstarch in this recipe? Thanks.

    Good question. I asked the authors and what they told me is that usually corn starch is used in Chinese cooking as a thickener in broths and in marinades it’s purpose is to seal in the juices of the meat, so that the meat remains moist even after cooking. In the case of this recipe, the broth is thin, so the main purpose is to keep the meat moist and tender. ~Elise

  • Sade

    I have a bunch of fresh mushrooms sitting in my fridge at the moment and it’s the only difference keeping me from making this for dinner tomorrow. Any suggestions for making this with fresh mushrooms, or is it preferable that I seek out dried shiitakes?

    I don’t think regular fresh mushrooms will be nearly flavorful enough for this preparation. The broth is mostly flavored by the dried shiitake. But if you decide to make it anyway with fresh mushrooms, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  • Judy

    I, too, want to check out that cookbook. We love Oriental food, and actually make a great chicken soup with ginger (love Ming Tsai’s Master Chicken Stock), but this recipe is fast and light, perfect for a quick & nourishing supper after a busy day. I might throw in some sliced carrots, but it looks pretty darn good, as is. Thanks, Elise!

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