Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chinese box thorn / Chinese wolfberry soup

Have you ever seen bunches of long thorny stems with small round leaves at the wet markets’ vegetable stalls? These are Chinese box thorm or Chinese wolfberry, or gáu-géi-choi in Cantonese (枸杞菜). They can be found year-round.

Chinese box thorn

Like me you might have never tried Chinese box thorn before but you surely know its fruit which is commercially known as Goji berry or red medlar. The red produce is commonly used in Chinese soups (click here for my pork, Chinese yam and Goji berry soup recipe) and herbal teas.

Goji berries / Dried red medlars
Although I have been in Hong Kong for many years I’ve never bought Chinese box thorn/wolfberry until recently. The reason why I did not was simple: this vegetable is strictly used to make soups with pork liver and my husband is not fond of pork liver. Lately, a strong urge to try new veggies available here and make a new soup pushed me to ask my husband if he would not mind having the pork liver replaced with thin slices of pork. I asked first as I learnt over the past 26 years (yep! that many) that some ingredients were not interchangeable. He agreed and I finally bought my first catty of gáu-géi-choi.

Chinese box thorn soup

Note: Only the small round leaves on the thorny stems are used.

  • 1 slice ginger
  • ½ catty Chinese box thorn (keep the leaves - discard the stems)
  • ½ catty lean pork – sliced
  • 5 rice bowls of water
  • Salt
  • Ground white pepper

  1. Remove leaves and wash them in cold water. Drain.
  2. Prepare broth: Bring water with ginger and pork slices to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes (time depends on how thick are the pork slices).
  3. Heat oil in wok, add the leaves and stir until wilted.
  4. Add broth in wok and bring it to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add salt and ground white pepper to taste.
Chinese box thorn and pork soup

This is a very quick and easy soup to make. I liked the smooth texture and the mild and distinct flavour of the thin leaves. It reminded me of basella {also called climbing spinach or sàahn-choi in Cantonese (潺菜: means: flow/trickle (of water) – vegetable)}.

Note: The Chinese box thorn leaves are said to be full of vitamins and according to Traditional Chinese Medicine to have cool-cold properties  (therefore said to be good for reducing heat symptoms such as dryness of throat, ulcer of the tongue and mouth, etc.)


  1. Hi Christine! Greetings from Adventures of Juan Or and Mommy. For your info, in South East Asian typical Chinese household home-cooked food, the boxthorn leaves are normally cooked in anchovies soup rather than pork liver. Try it! The distinct taste of the leaves goes very well with anchovies flavour. No ginger is needed. Merely add sufficient salt to taste and the soup is good to go!

  2. Oh yes, forgot to add: If cooked with anchovies soup, merely boil anchovies in water in a soup pot and after that throw in the fresh boxthorn leaves. Let the soup simmer a while and adjust the taste with salt. Add a little white pepper powder if you want. Ready to serve. It's simple and does not require use or transfer of different cooking utensils. Easy and convenient.

    1. Hi Alice,
      Nice meeting you and many thanks for visiting and your recipe.
      I'd love to try but not sure where to find fresh anchovies in HK.....I dont think it is very popular here.. will definitely check!