Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

The weather has suddenly taken a turn and it is now hot and muggy here in Minnesota. The temperature was in the 90’s for the past few days. It is a little better today but the thermometer will climb back up by the end of the week. With all that moisture and heat, I can almost see the grass growing before my very eyes. Thus, the allergy and yard work season begins. I guess it is always either too hot or too cold, safe for the few short weeks at the beginning of spring and fall…sigh! If only we can have some of that Mediterranean weather.

As the weather warms up, I will be making more salads and clear soups. The Cucumber, Tomato, and Boondi Raita I made recently is a cool and refreshing salad for a warm day. Today’s Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup is more like a drink and I usually make this in the warmer months. While it can be taken warm, I like it chilled with ice cubes. When I was growing up, mom often made this especially on sweltering days. Sometimes she will just boil the barley with a little sugar. The barley may or may not be eaten as the soup is what matters. Barley is considered to have cooling properties.

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

Ginkgo nuts come from the Ginkgo Biloba or Maidenhair Tree. It is thought that these huge long-lived trees originated in Northern China. They have pretty fan-shaped leaves that turn a deep yellow in autumn. Male trees produce pollen cones while female trees produce seeds. Unfortunately, the fruits contain a kind of acid which smells like rancid butter when fallen. To read more, please click here.

The picture of this ginkgo biloba was taken at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

The nuts are found inside the seeds. They have a cream colored shell that looks like pistachios. Inside the shell is a soft nut covered with a partly orange and grey membrane which has to be removed to reveal the soft cream to yellow colored flesh. There is a pith (embryo) in the flesh. This is bitter and needs to be removed as well. Ginkgo nuts have a sweet and mild taste and are often considered a delicacy in Chinese cooking. They may be added to soups, stews, stuffings, stir-fries, and desserts.

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

Peeling the nuts can be a pain. Fortunately, peeled ginkgo nuts can be found in the refrigerated section at the Asian grocery stores.

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

Beancurd sheets are often used in vegetarian cooking. They come packaged with several sheets in a bag.

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

Peeled hard boiled quail eggs may be added to soup towards the end of cooking, if desired. I have omitted it here.

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6 to 8 servings
  • 8 oz (225g) unpeeled ginkgo nuts or ¾ cup (135g) peeled ginkgo nuts
  • ½ cup (100g) hulled or pearl barley
  • 1 cup (120g) candied winter melon
  • 1 dried beancurd sheet
  1. Peel ginkgo nuts and remove the bitter center piths. Wash and drain peeled ginkgo nuts. Wash barley until water runs clear. Drain.
  2. Combine ginkgo nuts, barley, candied winter melon, and 7 cups (1.7 liters) water in a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 1 hour.
  3. In the meantime, break tofu sheets into small pieces. Soak in cold water to soften. Drain.
  4. After boiling soup for 1 hour, add soften beancurd sheet to soup. Continue to boil for another 15 minutes. Turn off heat and remove.
  5. Serve warm or cold.

This delicious Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup is often made for expectant mothers as it is thought to give babies a fairer skin. :)

Sweet Barley and Ginkgo Nut Soup

I would like to thank Roxan of Kitchen Meditation, Tanantha of I Just Love My Apron, and Love2Cook for passing on the Sunshine Award to me. I hope you will visit their wonderful blogs.

Roxan loves snowboarding and spending time in the kitchen. Her blog is full of healthful recipes.

Tanantha loves her apron and is passionate about food. Her recipes are fresh and exciting.

Love2Cook adores her two beautiful children and her blog has some amazing Indian and tropical delights.

Sunshine Award
NOTE: This post was updated on August 20th, 2013 with new pictures and minor changes to the write-up. No changes were made to the recipe.

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎


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  1. redkathy says

    Very interesting recipe. I have no experience with this sort of soup however your photos are quite enticing!

  2. kathy gori says

    I've been hearing about ginko nuts and am now very eager to locate some. This looks like a delicious soup for hot Sonoma summer days.

  3. Cook with Madin says

    Hi, I know exactly what you're saying about the weather. Over here in Northern California, just raining on and off and it is almost summer.
    But anyway, this recipe is interesting; especially the melon. I would like to try this. Because I love soup. I can eat them everyday, even for breakfast. Thank you again for sharing your delicious recipes

  4. Lazaro says

    This is a unique dining expereince that I wish I could try. Thank you for exposing me to something new. Great post.


  5. Angie's Recipes says

    In summer time, we do eat lots of ginkgo and barley soup in China, esp. in the south. Love it.

  6. MaryMoh says

    Ooooh…delicious drink. I love this type of drink. I can drink it anytime. It's a long time I have not cooked this. Hope to cook it soon.

  7. the lacquer spoon says

    Japanese loves ginko nuts too! I just learnt to add them in a soup. Thanks for your recipe :)

  8. tigerfish says

    Adding the melon candy must have made the soup taste different….from soups with sugar added.

  9. Dongxing says

    My three favourite ingredients (gingko nuts, melon candy and tofu sheet), all in one bowl! Brings back memories of childhood when my mum dished out this soup, cold, just before we sit down to do our homework in the late afternoon. The number of times we kids fought for the melon candy…. Lovely picture.

  10. Julie M. says

    This is a soup full of tastes that I've never tried before. I MUST get myself to the Asian grocery store and try it. It looks really good!

  11. lequan@luvtoeat says

    Congrats on your award Biren! You sure deserve it cause you always spread your warm smiles to me everytime I see your wonderful dishes. My mom actually makes this but without the candy melon. I'll ask her to try it with them next time. Thank you for sharing yet another tasty dish. Your children are lucky Mom can cook so many dishes. Mine are not so lucky…teehee….but I'm trying.

  12. Stella says

    Hey Biren, I've never heard of ginko nuts. I drink the tea, but this is new to me. Your description makes them sound so good too. I bet they're pricy…
    Your soup looks delicious by the way!

  13. rotinrice says

    Hi Kathy! Thanks for stopping by. This is a very cooling soup and really good for warm days. I think you should have no problems finding ginkgo nuts in the Asian grocery store as most stores I've been to sell them :)

  14. rotinrice says

    Yes, these are some of my favorite ingredients as well. Absolutely love ginkgo nuts and was delighted to find melon candy at my regular Asian grocery store.

  15. rotinrice says

    Hi Stella! The price on the ginkgo nuts are ok and only a small amount is used. I really like it's taste and texture and use it now and then, even in stir fries.

  16. denise fletcher says

    Hi Biren – Congrats on the Award x 3 😉 This is a lovely recipe for the usually disgustingly hot and muggy mid year weather 😛 I love this dessert and normally when I make a sweet cooling soup with candied melon, a fair portion of it will go into my mouth LOL It is very sweet but somehow I like crunching on the sugar crusted melon slices. Knowing me, you will of course not be surprised to know that I always add pandan to my sweet soups ROFL

  17. Cristina TeenieCakes says

    Biren: I'd like to taste that soup! I love gingko trees. I have three planted and two very old ones in planters. I didn't know gingko nuts were used. I'm going to look into it and see if I can find it n specialty mkts.

  18. rotinrice says

    Cristina, I love ginkgo trees too! Love their fan shaped leaves and their beautiful yellow color in fall. Yours must be beautiful. I had two ginkgo and several Japanese maples in planters in CO but they cannot survive the winters here in MN. I was very sad when we moved :( I think you should be able to find the ginkgo nuts in the Asian stores in CA. Do let me know how you like it.

  19. rotinrice says

    Thanks Denise! My mom uses pandan for this and the plain barley soup. It is really good. I am taking a short cut here :) I like munching on those sweet melons too.

  20. mangocheeks says

    As a person of south asian heritage your blog title won me over. Then I started have a nosy aroudn your recipes and was delighted to see recipes new to me. I have never eaten gingki nuts. Thank you for introducing this to me.

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