Yin-Yang Spinach and Chicken Soup


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    4 to 6

    as a first course.

Appears in

The Key to Chinese Cooking

By Irene Kuo

Published 1977

  • About

A Fukien concoction, this is actually two soups in one, and it stands on the border between soup and soupy main dish. The two soups are made separately, then poured together into one bowl to form the curved symbol of Yin and Yang. It is elegant and delicious.


Chicken mixture

  • ½ pound boneless and skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry sherry
  • 4 egg whites, well beaten but not stiff
  • 2 cups hot chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons cold stock and 1 tablespoon oil

Spinach mixture

  • 1 ten-ounce package chopped frozen spinach, defrosted, or fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups hot chicken stock
  • tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold stock and 1 tablespoon sesame oil



Trim off any fat or gristle from the chicken breast. Rinse and lay it on a chopping board, membrane side down. Hold one end firmly as you “scrape-mince” the meat with the tip end of a cleaver or sharp kitchen spoon (see illustration). Discard the tendon in the center of the fillet. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water on the scraped meat and march-chop it very fine, flipping the meat over several times until it is fluffy, a soft purée. Put it in a bowl, stir in the salt and sherry, then fold in the beaten egg whites. Mix vigorously in circular motions until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. You may do this hours in advance—cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

March-chop the defrosted spinach until it has the consistency of a purée. If you use fresh spinach, buy a little less than a pound. Wash it well and then parboil it in a large pot of boiling water for about 45 seconds; pour into a colander and spray with cold water until cold, then drain. Chop it fine, then march-chop until it is puréed. As with the scraped chicken, this preparation can be done hours ahead of time.

When ready to start the soup, bring 4 cups stock to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan and keep it hot on the stove. This will be for both the chicken and the spinach.

Spinach mixture

Heat a medium-sized saucepan over high heat until hot, add 1 tablespoon oil, swirl, and heat until hot. Add the spinach and stir rapidly for 30 seconds. Add the salt and sugar, stir, and then measure out and pour in 2 cups of the hot stock. When it comes to a boil, taste and adjust seasonings. Turn the heat very low and stir in the dissolved cornstarch, and mix until smooth and creamy. Cover and keep hot over very low heat while you complete the chicken.

Chicken mixture

Bring the remaining 2 cups stock to a boil over high heat, then turn heat to low and stir in the puréed chicken. When it is well blended and the meat turns white, about 1 minute, stir in the dissolved cornstarch and blend in circular motions until very smooth.


Immediately, holding a pot in each hand, pour the two soups simultaneously into a large serving bowl from opposite directions, moving your hands clockwise slowly as you pour so that they form a natural curved pattern. Then dot the wide end of the white chicken part with 1 teaspoon of the green spinach mixture and the green spinach part with 1 teaspoon of the white chicken mixture to complete the symbol of Yin and Yang. Stir to mingle at the table just before serving in individual soup bowls. For a heightened flavor, 2 teaspoons finely minced cooked Smithfield ham may be used as the dots.