Chinese Lamb Soup with Noodles and Watercress

I love adapting traditional recipes for lamb and goat, and Sai Yeung Choy Tong, a Chinese watercress soup with pork ribs has been on my list.

Chinese lamb and watercress soup in a bowl with chopsticks.
Chinese lamb soup with watercress.

This is a good, minimalist way to enjoy lamb or goat, especially if you’re looking for a lighter dish. A big warm bowl of lamb noodle soup is perfect for when it’s cool outside. I harvested my own watercress from the spring where I live, but it isn’t difficult to find. You can substitute mustard greens for the watercress, but if you check your local Asian grocer, they probably have lots of watercress and it’s usually very cheap.

Dried mushrooms

Dried mushrooms are helpful for making a rich broth. I used some dried hen of the woods / maitake, but dried shiitake are fine too, or you can omit them, as some traditional recipes seem to do.

Dried hen of the woods mushrooms in a jar.
Dried mushrooms are key for making a great broth. Feel free to use your favorite kind. I love maitake.

How to Make Chinese Lamb Soup with Noodles

The key to simple soups like this is to build a great tasting broth, and for the best result here, you use a special technique: blanching the meat in water for a minute to keep the broth crystal clear. Cooking meat in water might sound crazy at first, but the depth of flavor comes from long, slow cooking. Cooking the meat in water first doesn’t remove flavor, but it does remove impurities that will give you a cloudy broth. After your broth is made it’s easy: warm up the broth, add some fresh watercress or mustard greens, along with your favorite noodles, and eat.


Cuts to use

There’s a number of cuts you can use here, but for the best flavor and texture, you want to make sure to use a slow-cooking cut. Shoulder or neck is my first choice, but shanks will work too. Don’t use meat from the leg, which will get dry.

Chef Alan Bergo
Chef Alan Bergo, The Forager Chef

This recipe is by Chef Alan Bergo, the Forager Chef. A chef from Minnesota, Alan is a culinary industry veteran, former executive chef of acclaimed Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. Author of The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora, he’s one of the most respected voices in the world of foraging and wild food. He’s best known as the founder of Forager Chef, his website focused on wild ingredients that reaches millions of readers each year. Learn more about Chef Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at 


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Chinese lamb soup with watercress in a bowl.

Chinese lamb and watercress soup
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Chinese Lamb Soup with Noodles and Watercress

Lamb and watercress soup inspired by the traditional Chinese version using pork ribs.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Chinese lamb soup, chinese soup with watercress
Servings: 4
Calories: 23kcal


  • 1 large soup pot 4 qt capacity or larger



  • 1 lb lamb or goat shoulder or use bone-in lamb or shanks
  • 6 cup water, for blanching the lamb
  • 2 oz fresh ginger cut into ¼ inch slices and whacked with the back of a knife to release the aroma
  • ¼ oz fresh lemongrass whacked with the back of a knife and finely diced or minced
  • .5 oz dried wild mushrooms such as hen of the woods, shiitake or porcini
  • 1 Tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 4 oz washed and cleaned watercress you can use more watercress, depending on how much you like greens in your broth
  • Kosher salt to taste (start with 1.5 teaspoons and move up from there until it tastes good.

Spices (Tie these in a bouquet of cheesecloth and remove before serving)

  • 1 Star anise
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper corns
  • 2 dried hot chili peppers optional
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns optional


  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or more, for serving
  • Rice noodles softened in warm water, for serving (optional)
  • Sliced scallions for serving
  • Toasted sesame oil for serving (optional)
  • 8 cups vegetable stock or water


  • Tie the spices in cheesecloth and reserve.
  • Bring 6 cups of water to a simmer. Add the lamb to the water, cover the pot, bring to a boil, turn the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse the lamb. Discard the liquid or save for another purpose.
  • Put the lamb shank and remaining broth ingredients into a pot, add the spice bouquet, cover, bring to a simmer, then cook on low heat for 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
  • Season the soup to taste with salt until you like the flavor, then add the watercress and scallions, cook for a minute more to wilt them (or longer if you like the watercress very tender, as some do).
  • Ladle the soup into bowls on top of hot, tender rice noodles, drizzle with some of the sesame oil, and serve. Pass small dishes of soy sauce alongside, to dip the meat in as you eat.


Lamb should is used here but lamb neck is excellent too. 


Serving: 8oz | Calories: 23kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 0.04g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 150mg | Sodium: 500mg | Potassium: 183mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 905IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 0.5mg