Wednesday, March 14, 2012

5-Colour Burdock Root Soup

I have often seen burdock root either at the supermarket or wet market and I have tried it before in soups at restaurant but I have never bought burdock to cook for myself (until recently).

The root of the young burdock plant or ngàuh-bóng in Cantonese (牛蒡) looks like wooden sticks. It is rich in fibre and low in calories.

Burdock root / Ngàuh-bóng / 牛蒡
Recently after seeing a colourful pre-packed soup that included burdock root I thought it would be high time to try to make a soup with it myself {after so many years in Hong Kong}. In addition to the burdock root there were:
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 purple radish,
  • 1 corn,
  • 1 honey date, and
  • apricot kernels 
Is burdock considered to be yellow (the flesh) or brown (skin)?  Anyway, that still makes 5 colours and I immediately thought of the “miracle” or “herbal life-extending” Japanese soup. This soup is composed of 5 vegetables of 5 different colours:

  • green radish or white radish leaves,
  • white daikon,
  • carrot,
  • burdock, and
  • shiitake mushrooms.
Each colour represents one of the 5 Chinese five elements. Anyway, I just wanted to make a soup with burdock (never cooked it before) and try the purple turnip (also new to me). For nothing in the world I would have replaced the purple radish with the very common Oriental green radish (chêng-lòh-baahk青蘿蔔).
Since I had apricot kernels and honey dates in my pantry I decided to buy the other ingredients separately. I found these ingredients on the opposite side of the vegetable counter. The purple radish was labelled as “purple heart turnip” and the dark orange carrot as “Taiwan carrot “(toìh-séun -台筍).

Purple heart turnip

Taiwan carrot

Here is how I prepared my 5-colour soup with burdock and pork:

  • 225gr Taiwan carrot
  • 250gr Purple Heart turnip
  • 150gr corn (on the cob)
  • 300gr (1/2 catty) pork shank
  • 1 brown (honey) date
  • 10gr apricot kernels
  • ~100gr burdock root
  • Salt to taste
  1. Peel, wash and cut the carrot and turnip into big chunks.
  2. Wash and cut the corn and burdock root into 2-3 large pieces. (Leave the skin of the burdock on)
  3. Blanch pork in boiling water. Drain and rinse.
  4. In a large saucepan, add 6 rice bowls of water. Add pork, carrot, turnip, corn, burdock, date and kernels in. Put the lid on and bring to a boil.
  5. Boil for about 1 hour on medium heat.
  6. Lower the heat, and simmer for another 1 hour.
  7. Add salt to taste.
Click on the following highlighted words to see more photos of Vegetables,Ingredients (herbs,pickles, etc), and Fruits, plants and fungus.

The soup was delicious and sweet. I ate the flesh of the burdock (I left the skin as it was too tough). It has a similar texture to potato. Its slight liquorice after taste complements the sweet flavours of turnips and honey date (which is a brown date sweetened with honey) very well.

I will definitely be making this soup again and again!


  1. I very much like Asian, especially Chinese dishes. This soup looks very good.

  2. Glad you like it. You should try. Chinese soups (!) are indeed very tasty!