Xiancao Chicken Soup

The black colored xiancao (also known as mesona) food products are processed from the mint-like herbaceous plant (scientific name Platostoma palustre). Although xiancao can be found in the natural environment of Taiwan, in general, those grown around farmland were mostly transplanted from where the herb had already been planted.

Hakka people have long known how to make xiancao byproducts. So when they cut the weeds around the farmland, they will pay attention to where the xiancao are growing and avoid pulling them out. Around the Mid-Autumn Festival, Hakka farmers would go to their own fields and collect xiancao that have not yet blossomed. They then dry it in the sun and put it away to storage, and when necessary, use it to make xiancao spin-off. During the harvest season, the farm laborers would put the dried xiancao into a pot and boil it with water to make xiancao tea. After filtering it, they would let it cool, and then share the tea with the elders who were cultivating the land, or they would add sweet potato powder or other starch to transform the drink into solid xiancao jelly, which is a popular dessert for farmers or a snack for children.

What makes xiancao a local specialty in Hsinchu’s Guanxi Township is the area’s topography and climate. Because the region is located in the foothills, the xiancao there grows on the slopes between farm fields. Compared with the farm fields in the plains, there is more space for planting. Hence, there are more opportunities for harvesting xiancao in Guanxi. In addition, Guanxi often has afternoon thunderstorms in the summer, which makes its climate suitable for growing xiancao because the plant cannot grow in environments that are too dry.

In the beginning, the xiancao was grown by farmers mainly for their own use. Later, they put additional amount on the market, or they would make it into xiancao tea, xiancao jelly, or other processed products. Sales of xiancao products gradually increased. Almost thirty years ago, Guanxi’s naturally grown xiancao was no longer enough to meet the demand, so farmers began to grow xiancao through professional cultivation. In the 1990s, in the wake of the efforts to revive Taiwanese towns and villages and make each one standout with a unique product or characteristic, under the "one town, one specialty product" program, Guanxi residents began to promote xiancao as their specialty product, and many local people began selling sweet grass jelly desserts to visitors, making it easier for outsiders to taste xiancao products in Guanxi.

Xiancao Chicken Soup


Chicken pieces 600 g

Dried xiancao 10 grams

Ginger slices 5 grams

Water 1200cc


Salt 1.5 teaspoons

Fine sugar 1/2 teaspoon

Rice wine 2 tablespoons

Cooking method:

1. Put the chicken pieces in boiling water and scald to remove blood water; gently clean the xiancao, trim it to the appropriate length and put it in the medicine bag to be used.

2. Put all the ingredients and rice wine into the inner pot of an electric cooker, add a cup of water to the outer pot, cover the lid, press the switch, wait for the switch to pop up. Then continue to simmer for 30 minutes and add the rest of the seasonings.