5 Asian Superfoods for Health by Kirby Koo

Kirby KooLifestyle habits can be the key to cultivating one’s health. In Asia, the secret for our long life expectancies may lie in our diets. Here are 5 Asian superfoods that can help to improve health and wellness that can be incorporated in our diets.

1.    Gingko nuts. More commonly know as “Gingko biloba” or “銀杏/白果” in Chinese, is a nut that comes from the Maidenhair tree. It is known to improve blood circulation, enhance memory and prevent damage from free-radicals amongst many other benefits if consumed in moderation. We usually consume it in sweet soups with bean curd and ginger or in savory congee. However, this potent nut is not for everyone. If you are taking medication for any blood disorders or are pregnant, make sure to consult your doctor before consumption.

2.    Dried jujubes. Also know as a “red date” or “红枣” in Chinese, it is a fruit that comes from a shade tree. When dried, the jujube is higher in potassium, Vitamins B1&B2 and other minerals. It is believed to be antifungal, anti-inflammatory and also relieves stress. Additionally, a study has showed that jujubes also improve digestion. Often, it is used to soothe a sore throat in a tea made with dried jujubes and honey.  Other culinary uses include soups or in savory poultry stews.

3.    Wolfberries. More commonly known as “goji berries” or “枸杞” in Chinese, comes from the wolfberry plant. Harvested mainly in the northwest region of China, the goji berry has been deemed a superfruit for its high content of nutrients including various amino acids, minerals and essential vitamins. Due to its high anti-oxidant content, it also helps to prevent aging and improve the skin. Traditionally, it is used in Chinese health soups or stews as well as teas and dessert soups.

4.    Seaweed. A term to describe red, brown and green algae, in Chinese it is known as “紫菜”. Seawater and photosynthesis are the two elements needed to produce seaweed. Traditionally known for its high mineral content, it promotes a healthy thyroid, digestion and helps with recovery from common colds. In Japan, it is believed that consumption of seaweed helps to prevent the side effects of excess radiation exposure. Additionally, seaweed is great for the skin when consumed or applied on the face as a mask. Seaweed is consumed in savory soups such as miso or as a topping on noodle or rice dishes.

 A family recipe for to warm the soul

Gingko nuts, bean curd & barley dessert soup (白果腐竹薏米糖水)

 Great for dessert, and even breakfast (as an oatmeal-like meal). Just be cautious with the amount of rock sugar you add in, if you plan to consume it for other meals and not just dessert.


Ingredients (4 people)

– 20 gingko nuts (without their shells)

– 1/4 cup barley or pearl barley

– 2-3 sheets of dried bean curd

– 2 slices of ginger

– 8 cups water

– rock sugar to taste

– 2 eggs lightly beaten (optional)


Preparation Tips: 

– Soak the pearl barley in warm water for 30 minutes before cooking. 

– If you purchased gingko nuts with the shells on, after removing the hard shell, there is a light brown film that is quite tricky to remove. You can easily remove the film by soaking the nuts in hot water for 1 minute. 

– If you find the water is boiling too quickly and evaporating too fast, turn down the heat or add a little bit more water. 


1. Pour the water into the pot and bring to a boil. Add in barley, gingko nuts, ginger and boil for 1 hour, stirring occasionally on a medium flame.

2. After 1 hour, break the bean curd into smaller pieces and add it into the soup to boil on medium for 30 minutes.

3. 30 minutes later, turn the heat to high and let the soup come to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the beaten eggs lightly – make sure the soup is boiling before adding the egg!

4. Add rock sugar to taste and enjoy!

About Kirby Koo

Kirby Koo is a freelance writer and soon-to-be yoga instructor in Hong Kong. Inspired by her grandfather who was a doctor during the 1950s–1970s in Hong Kong, she incorporates both Chinese medicinal properties with Western medicine into her beauty DIY recipes. She can be contacted at www.kirby-koo.com.