Napa Cabbage / Wongbok Chicken Soup: This simple and healthy one-pot dish boasts rich umami flavours due to the addition of dried Chinese mushrooms, Chinese ham and preserved duck gizzards, and goes perfectly with just a bowl of steaming hot jasmine rice as a complete meal.
If you have been following my blog, you will know that my late mother was a Cantonese and a master of all kinds of cantonese soups. Growing up, having soup everyday was a must in our household. During the week, my mother would make simpler cantonese soups which require a shorter cooking time, known as ‘Gun Tong’ or 滚烫， which means ‘quick boiling soups’. However we always looked forward to the weekends when my mother would cook more elaborate Cantonese soups known as ‘Bo Tong’ or 煲汤 that need 2.5-4 hours to slowly boil and bring out the depth of flavour from the soup ingredients.
One of my favourite ‘Bo Tong’ is Wongbok Chicken Soup, which is so simple and yet so delicious. It goes perfectly with a bowl of steaming hot rice, and you don’t need any other dishes as the soup dish is already satisfyingly good, and contains a good mix of vegetable and meat.
As I mentioned several times before, I am allergic to MSG so I never add MSG to my cooking. Yet this Wongbok Chicken Soup is naturally sweet due to the natural sugars in the wongbok, as well as full of rich umami flavour due to the addition of dried Chinese shiitake mushrooms, duck gizzards and yunnan ham. In my recipe tips, I mentioned that you can purchase yunnan ham and other waxed goods like chinese sausages from Chinatown Wet Market. As for preserved duck gizzard, they are only available during the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Also, since Chinese New Year is coming up, here’s a BONUS tip to save you some money: I usually stock up several months’ supply of waxed goods by visiting the Chinatown pasar malam stalls on the last 1-2 days before Chinese New Year. Most of the stalls would be giving great discounts of up to 50% off just to clear stock. I then store my haul in the freezer and they can keep well for several months!
Hope you enjoy this recipe, and please leave me a comment below if you have any questions, suggestions or feedback for me!
Suggested Modifications for Special Diets
- Baby/Toddler-Friendly: Consider reducing sodium content by cutting down / skipping the Yunnan Ham and/or Duck Gizzard
- Child-Friendly: No modifications needed.
- Egg-Free: No modifications needed.
- Fish-Free: No modifications needed.
- Gluten-Free: No modifications needed.
- Nut-Free: No modifications needed.
- Shellfish-Free: No modifications needed.
Napa Cabbage Chicken Soup
- 1 Chicken Large
- 2 tsp Coarse Salt For exfoliating the chicken skin
- 1/2 kg Pork Ribs
- 8-10 Chinese Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
- 30 gm Chinese Ham Yunnan ham / Jing Hua Huo Tui
- 2 Preserved Duck Gizzard
- 1 Napa Cabbage (Wong Bok) Approx. 500 gm
- 3 1/2 litres Water including the mushroom water
- 20 g Wolfberries
- 1 thumb-sized piece Ginger
Preparation Method for Napa Cabbage (Wongbok) Chicken Soup (30 Min)
Wash and blanch the pork ribs. Blanching method: Add 3 bowls of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Add in the pork ribs and boil for about 8-10 mins until the scum surface. Discard the water and rinse the pork ribs thoroughly removing any blood clot in the crevices of the bones.
Clean the chicken and remove all innards. Rub the chicken skin with coarse salt to remove the thin yellowish film covering the skin.
Soak the mushrooms in hot water until soft, then cut off and discard the stalks. Do not discard the water used to soak the mushroom, instead add it to the soup for more umami flavour.
- Remove the skin from the ginger and cut into thick slices.
Wash the Wong Bok and cut into 2 1/2 cm width wise.
Pour hot water over the yunnan ham and gizzard to dissolve the waxy oil covering, and rinse thoroughly.
- Cut the yunnan ham into thick slices.
Cooking Method for Napa Cabbage (Wongbok) Chicken Soup (4 hours)
In a big pot, add in 3 1/2 litres of water and bring to a boil over high heat..
Add in the pork ribs, mushrooms, mushroom soaking water, ginger, Chinese ham, duck gizzards and the whole chicken, then continue to boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat to medium low and continue to simmer for 3 hours.
Add in the Wong Bok and continue to boil for another 30 mins.
- In the last 15 mins, add in the wolfberries.
- Serve with a bowl of piping hot rice.
- Do not add salt to the soup. The duck gizzard and the ham are salty enough.
- Do not add the wolfberries too early as the soup will turn a bit sourish if the wolfberries are cooked too long.
- Preserved duck gizzard is available at Chinatown Wet market located at Chinatown Complex (Smith Street). Look out for shops that sell Chinese sausages, salted fish and other dried goods.
- I like to stock up on duck gizzards and Chinese sausages during the Chinese Lunar New Year, where you will find plenty of 'Pasar Malam' stalls selling Chinese sausages and other waxed goods like waxed duck waxed pork belly etc,etc. Duck gizzard usually come in a vacuum-pack of of 5 costing S$10/ pack. I usually go during the last 2 days before the Chinese New Year when the stallholders sell it at half price (S$5/pack) to clear stock. You can buy a few packets and freeze them, and they can last for several months. Preserved waxed duck gizzard and ham also help to lower bodily heat.
- After cooking, the texture and the taste of the duck gizzard is like yunnan ham, soft and tender. If you prefer to have a more crunchy texture, you can take out the duck gizzards about 45 mins into the boiling process.
- If you cannot get the duck gizard, you can add more Chinese Ham instead.
- Wong Bok is a cooling vegetable. When cooking this vegetable, it is good to add few slices of ginger to counteract the cooling effect.
- For a healthier version, you can emove the skin from the chicken. As for me, I remove the fattier part of the skin and retain some to give the soup a smoother texture.