Chinese Yam with Pork Ribs soup


Chinese yam, also known as 淮山 (“huai shan”)  or 山藥 (“shan yao”), is a root that Chinese people eat as a mild tonic food. It is supposed to be good for the spleen, lungs and kidneys. My mother-in-law extols its virtues and in recent years she has added several slices of the Chinese yam in practically every soup she makes, regardless of whether she is making corn soup, fish soup, chicken soup or melon soup. Considering that she looks so beautiful and youthful at her age (85) and that it is good for the lungs, I decided to make a version that is chuckful of the goodness of sweet fresh Chinese yam with spareribs by modifying two recipes I found online. I was amazed by the result. It was refreshing and delicious. This recipe is a keeper! 

Goji berry has been used in Chinese cuisine for thousands of years but recently it has become a super food for Westerners. It is high in vitamin C, has high levels of anti-oxidants and is great for the eyes and skin, provides immune system support and improves anxiety and sleep. In this time of the Covid-19 or Wuhan coronavirus, we can all do with a little tonic to strengthen our lungs and immune system. 

In some countries like Taiwan or Japan (where it’s called nagaimo), Chinese yam is available fresh as a strange looking hairy, humongous root. If you don’t find it in the fresh section of your grocery store, it is available in the dried sliced form in most Chinese groceries.  If you are using the dried version, do remember to rinse it before cooking. Fresh Chinese yam is better for this recipe as it is sweeter.  When cooked in soup, its texture and taste is like potatoes. The fresh yam can also be sliced thinly and stir fried (that’s going to be another blog post in the future).  

About 6 -8 inches long fresh Chinese yam 山藥 “shan yao” (peeled, washed and sliced)
Spare ribs or lean pork (cut into pieces)
6 Red dates
3 dried figs
Handful of goji berries (also known as wolfberries)
2 slices of ginger
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine or Chinese rice wine
Salt to taste

  1. Parboil the spareribs in small amount of water that just covers the spareribs for 2-3 mins. Discard the water that is used to parboil the spareribs.
  2. Rinse the spareribs in fresh water to remove the brown foamy bits.
  3. Fill the pot with fresh water, put in the spareribs, shan yao, dates, figs, goji berries and ginger.
  4. Boil on high for 15 mins, then lower heat to continue boiling for 45 mins. Add in the wine and salt to taste towards the end of cooking time.
Left to right: Goji berries, dried figs, red dates
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