Snow Fungus Jujube Dessert Soup (Yin’er Tang, 银耳汤)
Refreshing Summer Dessert~~
This version of 银耳汤 (yín’ěr tāng), or snow fungus jujube dessert soup as we’ll call it, is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) quadruple threat. Yin’er tang is often served after banquet meals, and it’s a frequent staple in our Chinese home. Moreover, with high quality jujubes as a natural sweetener, we rarely end up adding extra sugar.
Better yet, it transitions seamlessly between the hottest and coldest of days. In the winter, yin’er tang is nourishing and delicious eaten warm straight from the pot. Then, once summer arrives, we chill it overnight for a cool, sweet soup that’s even better after a spicy meal.
Yin’er tang’s namesake ingredient is 银耳 (yín’ěr), snow fungus, but its most frequent pairings include some combination of 蓮子 (liánzǐ), lotus seed; 枸杞 (gǒuqǐ), goji; and 红枣 (hóngzǎo), jujube.
Of these sidekicks, we value jujube most for the color and taste it adds to the soup. Yin’er itself is prized for its unexpected crunch but neutral in taste, so plump, juicy jujube complements yin’er perfectly. In fact, you’ll never find Mala Mama making yin’er tang without it. In addition to its tangible characteristics, jujube is excellent for the human body’s 阴 (yīn), 阳 (yáng) and 气 (qì). Jujubes nourish the digestive system, tonify the blood and even protect nerve cells from neurotoxin stress. Dried jujubes are also nutritionally dense.
As one of the most celebrated and ancient fruits in China, there’s virtually no end to its list of medicinal benefits. In Chinese, the saying is “每日食三枣，医生不用找,” an equivalent of “three jujubes a day keep the doctor away.”
Slicing the jujubes before cooking makes sure all that sweetness gets concentrated into the soup. Right before serving, we also like to mash the plump jujubes with the backside of a spoon. This extracts even more flavor out of the jujubes. However, if you’re entertaining guests, mashing won’t make them look too pretty once served.
Why eat yin’er tang?
Yin’er (also known as silver or snow ear fungus, white wood ear and tremella) is a common TCM application for moisturizing dry lungs, clearing the lungs of inflammation, and soothing dry mouths and coughs. It’s high in protein, minerals and vitamins, and it contains 17 kinds of amino acids, including 7 out of 8 essential amino acids needed by the human body. Even before modern pharmacological analysis, dynastic royals knew it as a 阴 (yīn) tonic for health and longevity. Now, it’s also known as an affordable comparative to indulgent 燕窝 (yànwō), bird’s nest.
When paired with jujube, lotus seed and goji, the health benefits are amplified. Lotus seed supports qi and tonifies the spleen, heart and kidneys. Its astringent properties can help relieve symptoms of diarrhea and improve appetite, and its neutral nature also calms the spirit by treating palpitations, insomnia and irritability. Meanwhile, goji is well-known for tonifying the liver and kidneys, and its antioxidants make it an anti-aging eye brightener.
It’s important to note that TCM treatments pretty much never rely on the abilities of any one ingredient alone, and Chinese herbal medicine requires years (not to mention the cumulative lifetimes of ancient physicians) of intensive study to understand and practice. This post barely scratches the surface of how yin’er, jujube, lotus seed and goji can be used together, and the recipe is by no means a cure-all. However, you can’t talk about yin’er tang without talking about TCM.
- Soak yin’er root-down so it can thoroughly rehydrate, and use cold water only. Soaking the fungus in hot water will make it lose its crunch and also bring out a gummy quality. Hot water will also leech away nutrients.
- Yin’er will turn soft and gelatinous once overcooked. The desired texture is crunchy. If it is too soft, the textural harmony of the dish will lean overwhelmingly toward soft mush. Particularly when serving chilled, you’ll appreciate the crisp variation in each bite.
- 冰糖 (bīngtáng), or rock sugar, is an optional sweetener. It is less refined than granulated sugar, and its sweetness is more subtle. Bingtang comes with its own TCM characteristics, which are harmonious with many of the ingredients in yin’er tang.
- Best eaten the day of or after cooking to avoid nutrient loss.
For more summertime friendly dishes, try Kathy’s family’s liangban daikon carrot or Michelle’s crunchy lotus root salad.
Snow Fungus Jujube Dessert Soup (Yin'er Tang, 银耳汤)
- 1 dried snow fungus
- 5 dried jujube (more if not Grade One)
- handful dried lotus seeds
- rock sugar (optional) to taste
- handful dried goji berries
- Soak the snow fungus, root side down, in a separate bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes. While the snow fungus soaks, rinse the jujubes of any dust, then slice in half longways so it's easier to remove the pit once cooked. If preferred, you can core it now, but once it's cooked the pit removes much more cleanly.
- When the snow fungus has expanded and softened, rinse lightly and drain before continuing. Using kitchen shears, cut around the harder yellow root portion at the base of the fungus and discard. Tear the softened snow fungus into bite size pieces using your hands and set aside.
- In a large pot, add the snow fungus, halved dates, lotus seeds and a bit of rock sugar (if using) and cover with cold water. The amount is up to you. We fill a 5.5-quart dutch oven a little more than halfway, as we all enjoy the sweet soup and that always seems to run out first.
- Cover, bring to a boil and cook for a minute on high heat, then simmer on the lowest heat possible about 40-45 minutes, until the soup turns deep orange or sweetens to your liking. In the final 3-5 minutes of cooking, add the goji berries and more rock sugar to taste (if desired). The goji must cook long enough to soften, but will turn bitter if cooked too long. If the water gets too low after simmering, or if upon taste-testing you find it too sweet, you can add in additional boiling water at any stage.
- Serve immediately while warm, or leave to cool and chill in the fridge overnight for a refreshing summertime dessert.
Can the fungus be ground in a blender?
Hi Frances, thanks for reading! The fungus should not be ground for this recipe. You want to keep it in bite-size pieces to enjoy with the other components of the soup. I have never tried grinding snow fungus in a blender, I would not recommend doing so.