Chicken Soup with Ginger and Shiitake Mushrooms

A simple, light Chinese soup with chicken thighs, shiitake mushrooms and ginger.

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.

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. Andria

    It’s finally cold enough for soup in North Carolina! I recently discovered that I like shiitake mushrooms and this recipe is perfect for my new discovery. Thanks.

  6. Kevin

    I know what’s going in the stockpot tomorrow! I usually make my chicken noodle soup with lemongrass and ginger, so I’m sure this will be great!

  7. Jasonda

    I will definitely be trying this. Maybe I will make a congee version too, with some green onions and crispy fried garlic on top.

    P.s. Coffee filters make great sieve liners!

  8. Jeannie

    I have a thing about no sweet taste in a savory dish. If I leave out the sugar, do I have to add something else in, increase something else, or no big deal?

    The best dishes stimulate all of the taste sensors of our tongues – sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. Yes, the sugar is important. You can’t distinguish it, but it creates balance in the broth. I do not recommend leaving it out. ~Elise

  9. Bridgette

    I tried this soup tonight, but like Sade, I only had fresh mushrooms. I dried them out in a warm (200°) oven for about an hour, then followed the recipe. It turned out perfectly! It was so easy, flavorful and smelled divine! Thanks for sharing it!

  10. justin

    Considering how few ingredients this soup calls for.. its truly amazing how rich and robust the flavor is. I will be making this over and over.

  11. Johan

    Are you sure about only 3 cups of liquid in total in this recipe? It’s meant to serve 4 and uses 1 1/2 lb of chicken. The amount of liquid seems far too little both for the number of servings and the amount of chicken. Pretty extravagant for peasant food.

    The chicken releases moisture as it cooks. The original recipe called for a pound, but we had a pound and a half. Much of the weight is the bone, which you don’t eat, but which flavors the stock. And the original recipe is “steamed chicken”. But we found it to be so brothy, that it’s more like a light soup with lots of chicken in it, which is why I call it a soup. ~Elise

  12. Patti

    Dear Elise -

    As always, I can’t say enough good things about Simply Recipes.

    I love the idea of this soup and I am a big mushroom fan, however, shiitake mushrooms are the only mushrooms I cannot eat – I do not enjoy the taste. Are there any other dried mushrooms out there with enough flavor that could be used as a decent substitute? Thanks in advance.

    Hi Patti – the distinctive flavor of this soup comes from the flavor of the shiitakes. There may be some other meaty, flavorful Chinese mushroom that you could use instead, but if you don’t like shiitakes, then I don’t think those would work for you either. You might try it with some other mushroom, but I have no idea how it will work with the ginger. For example, porcinis would work with the chicken, but would they with the ginger? No idea. If you experiment, let us know what you find. ~Elise

  13. Mahlookma

    This reminds me of a soup my Thai mother makes, but her version has onion greens (left long rather than chopped) and peppercorns as well.

    Onion greens and peppercorns would both be excellent additions to this soup. ~Elise

  14. kris @kmulkey007

    Every time I used dried mushrooms they come out rubbery and chewy. What am I doing wrong?

    Nothing. Reconstituted dried mushrooms are chewier, and more meaty than fresh mushrooms. If they are too chewy though, perhaps you aren’t starting with hot enough water, or soaking them long enough. ~Elise

  15. Russ

    My wife is Japanese. This is the kind of thing we make at home for chicken soup. Even if we are just opening up a can, we always add ginger at the very least.

  16. Sharon

    This looks to be such a comforting and tasty adoption of the traditional Chinese chicken soup. I really love drinking soups and I have it all the time throughout the year. They are especially good and satisfying on a cold or rainy day. They warm your stomach and make you feel so good after drinking a hot bowl! And thank you for sharing the good find on the Cultural Revolution Cookbook. I love that it combines both history and recipes of the Chinese cuisine!

  17. The Rev

    Boneless skinless chicken thighs were on sale at my local market. (I should add that I live in a VERY small town.) I bought the dried mushrooms at Costco a long time ago.

    This is wonderful. I added some button mushrooms since I only cooked a bit over a pound of boneless chicken thighs. The dried mushrooms add such a wonderful flavor. A bit of sesame oil MIGHT be useful tho I like it just as it is.

  18. bureaucrat

    I’ve never cooked this as a soup, but I use the exact same ingredients (sans the stock) to make one of my favourite stir fries. I also like to add wood ear fungus and lily stems to it. Delish served a generous drizzle of sesame oil, with a big bowl of rice.

  19. Gin

    Elise,

    Your website is inspirational and nudged me to chronicle my family’s, especially my parent’s recipes. I feel particularly blessed to still have both parents (both 87 yrs old) who were foodies all of this time, except I didn’t know it! I just thought they were great cooks!- especially Mom.

    And I think you and your parents are very fortunate to share family recipes and collaborate on new ones together. You’ll all have memories that so many people only dream about.

    If you are interested, my mom makes simple home-style Cantonese food and I would enjoy sharing her recipes with you (I’ll even bring her over to cook in your kitchen to demo that you don’t need a wok or steamer to make many Asian dishes. She’ll also want to drag you to the Asian food stores and teach you to shop for the ingredients). She makes a steamed chicken and lop cheung (Chinese sausage) dish that you’ll fall in love with. She’s also adapted the dish as a fast and simple one-dish meal – mixing ingredients together and pouring it over rice as it’s cooking. It’s fast food at it’s best!

    Wishing you many reasons to smile.

    Best Regards,

    Gin

  20. Nina

    This may be a stupid question, but why specify bone-in thighs and then say to cut chicken into chunks. Won’t that be removing the meat from the bones? What is the point of having bones in the first place? Recipe sounds delicious.

    No, you would typically use a cleaver to cut through the bone-in thighs, bone and meat. The soup would be served bone-in, and you would eat around the bones. This is the most flavorful way to eat the soup, albeit awkward for many who are not used to eating around the bones. The bones themselves, especially if they are cut to reveal the inner marrow, are useful for creating a richly flavored stock. That said, even if you just cut around the bones, and still use the bones while you are cooking the stock, discarding them later, that would taste better than not using bones at all. ~Elise

  21. Don Ugent

    We made this soup yesterday and had it for dinner last night. It was wonderful and the ginger and mushrooms were what seemed to make the soup. I would agree with one of the other comments that there doesn’t seem to be enough liquid to make four servings. Could have added a bit more water or some chicken stock though. Thanks for posting the recipe.

  22. Rebecca H.

    This is such a perfect January meal, warm and soothing. Thanks for the tip about cutting bone-in chicken thighs with a cleaver. I’ve always wanted to own a cleaver, I feel like I have a reason to get one now.

  23. Stevie

    This soup was amazing. So very simple and so satisfying. I couldn’t believe how little seasoning it required. I plan to make it again and again.

  24. Grace

    Hi Elise,
    My mother, who is Taiwanese, has been making a version of this soup for our family ever since I was a child. The recipe she uses has been passed down from her mother, and while I am a fan of your recipe website and fabulous concoctions, the Taiwanese in me has a few suggestions the next time you try this recipe. Authentic Taiwanese cuisine is notorious for the amount of time it takes to prepare each dish! We use a whole, organic chicken and a very large stockpot. The chicken is cooked whole in the pot on medium-low heat for several hours (until done); we use liberal amounts of ginger slices to flavor the stock and season with salt and ground white pepper. Once cooked, we take the entire chicken out from the pot and pull the meat apart with our fingers – not difficult since the meat will easily fall off the bone. Once entirely shredded, we put the meat and bones back into the pot to let the soup absorb more flavor. Shiitake are then added, the soup is skimmed, and the finishing touches are a handful or two of dried goji berries. We have never used soy sauce or corn starch for this soup, as it is supposed to be light, rejuvenating, and infused with the natural flavors of ginger and chicken. At times, my mother has added barley (do this before adding goji berries) especially when she’s making the soup to help us with our colds. At any rate, I am extremely happy you posted this online and I hope you get a chance to try a different version of this soup!

  25. elise lafosse

    Hi Elise, I plan to make this tomorrow night or this weekend it looks so good. (Hopefully you can get back to me by tomorrow maybe?) I am going to use the bone-in thighs as you request…the bone-in thighs I bought have the skin on them…I assume I keep the skin on when cooking it for more flavor? Or do I take it off. The other question, I did not quite understand when soaking the mushrooms in hot water, you say to use a smaller bowl or pot to keep mushrooms submerged…does this mean you invert a pot over the mushrooms soaking in the water? so you make sure mushrooms are in the water? Lastly, I am going to try to use a cleaver to chop them up…any suggestions on how? well I suppose you just do it…Thanks. Elise

    Hi Elise, great questions all. Regarding cutting the chicken pieces, you can also use the notch in a pair of poultry shears to cut through the bones. To use a cleaver, first work over a thick cutting board. The hand motion of the using the cleaver is hard to describe. You want the chicken to be struck by the last inch and a half of the cleaver, not the edge closest to your hand. As for skin-on or off, you could go either way. We took the skin off and fried it up for chicken-skin tacos. Regarding the mushrooms, just make sure they are submerged in the water. Hope that helps! ~Elise

  26. Pille

    Elise, I made this for lunch yesterday. I used a wee bit more water (about 1 litre), and sprinkled some finely chopped scallions on top. Utterly delicious – and indeed, so much flavour from such a few ingredients! I loved the sweetness of the broth especially..

    Thank you so much for sharing the recipe – and I’ve already ordered the book from Amazon ;)

  27. Julie

    I too, found this recipe while searching for what to do with my ENORMOUS container of dried shiitakes from costco.

    Seriously though….if you love them, you should buy one. I picked mine up for $6.00, and it’s a half pound.

    I’ll be making this tonight with the addition of some soba noodles (have to use em up). Thanks for the great recipe, as always.

  28. Dana

    Wow. Once again, I’ve found the most amazing recipe from your site, Elise. Thank you! I was so intrigued by just reading the recipe for this dish that I ordered the Chinese Cultural Revolution Cookbook right away. It arrived a week ago, and it’s a fascinating read. Finally had a chance to go grocery shopping today and immediately tried this recipe. Yum! So natural tasting and delicious. Thanks again!

  29. Garrett

    Elise, I had a soup very similar to this in Lhasa, Tibet. However, they used a different local mushroom called Hericium (it looks like a tiny, fluffy brain and has a milky flavor). Another difference was that the Tibetans would add fresh or dried dates to the soup as well.

    The soup also used a popular Tibetan stock instead of water. Many soups in Tibet use this popular mixed-source stock for many of their soups. personally, i couldn’t get enough of it and I was finally able to get the recipe from a local Tibetan cook:

    0.5 kg pork ribs, cut up
    0.5 kg pig feet, cut up
    1 kg chicken feet, cleaned
    lots of ginger, sliced thinly

    If you want you can lightly char the ginger a bit to give it a caramellized flavor, first.

    Braise it all in water for four hours. Strain out the solids and use as desired.

    It is, by far, one of the most flavorful stocks I have ever had.

  30. Jacqui

    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?

    It wouldn’t really work with ordinary fresh mushrooms as a lot of the flavor comes from the very strong liquor from the shitakes. I made it last week and it was delicious, though agree it could do with more liquid. I added some thread noodles and chilli….delicious and so simple.

    Hi Jacqui – so much of the flavor of this soup comes from the dried shiitakes I wouldn’t even bother trying to make it with anything else. That said, if you do try it with fresh mushrooms, dry sauté them first (sauté on high heat with no cooking oil until lightly browned and the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture). ~Elise

  31. Elise Lafosse

    Elise, Your instructions were great. Hacking the chicken thighs to pieces was easier than I thought. The soup was delicious….my husband loved it. Thanks for another great recipe! Best, Elise

  32. Jeroen de Haan

    Easy and lovely! Just added a pinch of pepper to spice it up a bit. Good tip from Pille to add some scallions, I missed some green in it.

  33. Jane

    Excellent recipe. My family did it a bit differently. We first cooked the chicken (with water) in a pressure cooker. After it was done, we added shiitake mushroom, fish sauce, sugar and salt and brought to a boil. The cooking time was reduced in half.