Chef Theresa Lin’s Nourishing Ginseng Chicken Soup
On a hot summer day in June, our small film crew of three crawled through traffic to the aptly named City of Industry on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County. When we entered the nondescript studios of EETV—the largest Chinese television network in the United States—we were greeted by bright lights, air conditioning, and the warm smile of Chef Theresa Lin.
Lin playfully introduced herself as “Mother Theresa,” though it was clear that she embraced the humanitarian aspect of her cooking. And no wonder: Chef Theresa has been called a food ambassador, even a culinary diplomat, for her work as an author, radio show host, and TV personality. She has also made a name for herself working alongside Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee as the food designer for 1994’s Eat Drink Man Woman.
As bright and professional as Theresa was, the star of the show that day was ginseng. Packages of the prized root lined the walls of the studio, advertising the products of Hsu’s Ginseng, a Wisconsin-based ginseng farm that sponsors Theresa’s cooking shows. Fresh American ginseng, which grows wild in Appalachia and contains a variety of medicinal properties, features heavily in Theresa’s recipe below.
“I call it the immune system booster!” Theresa professed of the root. Our crew was lucky enough to try a bowl of her ginseng chicken soup, and I can say that I felt immediately refreshed—even on a hot day!
Nourishing American Ginseng, Chicken, Red Date, and Yam Soup
2 stalks Hsu’s fresh American ginseng (or substitute same amount of dried)
1 whole free-range chicken
6 slices dried Chinese yam
3 slices ginger
10 red dates
3 tablespoons (20 grams) dried goji berries
2 tablespoons rice wine (for cooking)
1 teaspoon whole white peppercorn
Sea salt to taste
Green onion, shredded (optional)
Chop off the chicken feet and reserve them for later. Blanch the rest of the chicken in boiling water to remove the blood, about 3 minutes until the exterior turns white. Rinse the chicken.
Meanwhile, soak the red dates, goji berries, and yam in water for 10 minutes.
In a large pot, combine chicken, chicken feet, ginseng, drained red dates and yam, ginger slices, white peppercorn, and rice wine. Add enough water to cover all ingredients, then cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
Once it boils, turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer for two hours.
Add goji berries.
Season with sea salt, and serve hot with a garnish of green onion.
Kyle Baker is a documentary filmmaker based in Santa Cruz, California. He is a former intern and lifelong fanatic of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings who loves soup more than he hates driving in Los Angeles.