Move over, kale. Here comes a more versatile, nutrient-dense, and tasty leafy green: watercress!
Seriously: did you know that this unassuming aquatic plant was recently proclaimed the new queen of the produce aisle, with a nutrient density score of 100%? My mom, for one, has long been aware of the nutritional punch that watercress delivers, because she’s been making traditional Cantonese pork sparerib and watercress soup since forever. It was one of my favorite childhood dishes.
During the month of January, I’m partnering with Whole Foods Market to develop a couple of simple and delicious recipes—so when the Whole Foods team asked me to create a comforting dish using watercress, my mom’s soup immediately came to mind. Hers is a traditional slow cooked soup, or lou fo tong (老火汤), packed with tender pork spare ribs, watercress, dried Chinese dates, shiitake mushrooms, and almonds—but patience is not one of my virtues. I was determined to make a fast and easy version.
This Watercress & Chicken Soup is a mod of my mom’s recipe that can be prepared in just minutes, and without having to make a special trip to an out-of-the-way Asian supermarket. The secret? I substitute sliced chicken thighs for the pork, and leave out items I can’t find in my neighborhood grocery. Also, because the watercress I bought at Whole Foods is so young and delicate, I decided to add it at the end so it remains a vibrant shock of green in the bowl.
I can almost see my mom shaking her head as she reads my recipe, but hey—when I’ve served this soup on a chilly weeknight, my brood has given me a collective thumbs-up. After all, there’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup, right? So go grab the ingredients and simmer a big pot tonight!
(Pssst! You can also make this soup in an electric pressure cooker! Check out my Facebook Live video here.)
- ½ pound of fresh watercress (or two containers of Go Green hydroponic/living watercress), washed and drained
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoon coconut aminos
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon ghee or fat of choice
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼” coins
- 4 large shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- kosher salt, to taste
- 6 cups bone broth or chicken broth
- Cutting board
- Chef’s knife
- Salad spinner
- Medium bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cup
- Large saucepan
- Silicone spatula
- Serving bowls
Grab your watercress and cut off the root end if you’re using the living stuff.
Rinse the leaves well in cold water and spin dry in a salad spinner. (Or just drain the washed leaves in a colander.)
Slice the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into strips, and put them in a bowl.
Add the coconut aminos, sesame oil, and fish sauce, and stir to make sure the marinade is well distributed. (If you’re a rockstar meal planner, you can marinate the chicken for up to 24 hours in advance. But if you’re like me, you can do this right before you make the soup.)
Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat and chop up the rest of the vegetables.
When the pan is hot, toss in the shallots, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms and a pinch of salt.
Sauté until the shallots and mushrooms are softened (about 5-10 minutes).
Pour in the broth, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Add the chicken and bring everything back up to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low (or just enough to maintain a simmer) and cook for 5-10 additional minutes, or until the carrots have softened and the chicken is cooked through. Boneless, skinless chicken breast will cook faster than thighs, so you may need to fish out the chicken first if the carrots aren’t yet as tender as you want ’em. Thighs, on the other hand, are more forgiving if you overcook them, so you can leave them in the pot until the carrots are cooked through.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the watercress.
As soon as the watercress is wilted, season to taste with more salt and/or fish sauce.
Ladle it up and dig in!
Pro tip: the leftovers taste great for breakfast topped with a fried crispy egg!
Full disclosure: As I mentioned above, this is a Whole Foods-promoted post, but as always, all opinions expressed on Nom Nom Paleo are my own, because I don’t let anyone put words in my mouth. (Food, yes, but words, no.)
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!