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Pork Soup with Shan Yao, Bai He & Gou Qi Zi

Originally published March 2015

This delicious, light and simple pork and herb soup is an excellent recipe to prepare the body for spring. Spring is the season of wood and its associated organ the Liver. It is the season of activity after the long dormancy of winter, so it is time to nourish the body and increase the movement of Qi. The primary taste for spring is sweet to tonify Qi and Blood, regulate the Spleen and Stomach, and benefit and harmonize the Yin organs.

The secondary taste for spring is a bit of pungent to slightly promote the upward and outward movement of Qi. Because spring is the season of wind, Shan Yao, Bai He, Gou Qi Zi and Hong Zao nourish Yin and Blood to fortify the Liver against wind invasion and internal wind. Gou Qi Zi also brightens the eyes, the sensory organ of the Liver. A small amount of Sheng Jiang and onion are pungent and serve to promote the upward and outward expansion of Liver Qi. Pork ribs, Shan Yao, Hong Zao, carrots and Sheng Jiang combine to tonify Qi, benefit the digestion and improve the appetite. The rib bones will also leach calcium ions into the soup, in a form which is easily absorbed by the body. A small amount of thinly sliced greens can be added to the soup as the color of spring is green and fresh greens have an affinity for the Liver. This tasty soup provides nourishment for those who are overworked and run down, for recovery from illness, or simply for maintaining good health.


  • 3 lbs. pork ribs
  • 20-30g (small handful) Shan Yao/Dioscorea opposita rhizome
  • 20-30g (small handful) Bai He/Lilium brownii bulb
  • 10-20 pieces of Gou Qi Zi/Lycium barbarum fruit
  • 4-8 pieces of Hong Zao/Ziziphus jujuba fruit- red
  • 3-4 slices minced Sheng Jiang/Zingiber officinale rhizome- fresh
  • 3 large carrots thinly sliced
  • 1 onion minced
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: a handful of thinly sliced greens (any Chinese greens, chard, kale, mustard greens, etc.)


  1. Rinse the pork ribs and pat dry.
  2. Sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper and sear quickly on each side in a small amount of vegetable oil (3-5 minutes per side), then remove from heat.
  3. In the meantime, rinse the Chinese herbs and carrots.
  4. Thinly slice the carrots (and greens if desired) and mince the onion and 3-4 large slices of fresh ginger.
  5. Bring the vegetable or chicken broth to a boil in a big pot.
  6. Add the pork ribs, Shan Yao, Bai He, Gou Qi Zi, Hong Zao, Sheng Jiang, carrots and onion.
  7. Lower heat to a gentle simmer and simmer for 60-90 minutes, or until the pork ribs are very tender and slide easily off the bones.
  8. Optional: Add the thinly sliced greens in the last ten minutes of cooking.


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