The Empress's Secret Beauty Soup

The Empress’s Secret Beauty Soup
Photo: Jonathon Kantor

It is rumored that this soup was a favorite with a Chinese empress and the concubines in the Forbidden City. Serve it as an elegant light lunch or as a refreshing first course for dinner.


  • ¼ cup rolled oats

  • ¼ cup wheat berries

  • ¼ cup barley

  • ¼ cup brown rice

  • ¼ cup buckwheat kasha

  • 1 pound watermelon rind cut into 4-inch-long strips (about 3 cups of watermelon rind)

  • 7 ½ cups spring water

  • ½ cup rock sugar broken into small pieces

  • 2 green tea bags


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the five grains, watermelon rind, and 6 cups of spring water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, and simmer until the liquid is reduced to 4 cups, about 50 minutes.

  2. In a small saucepan, combine the rock sugar, tea bags, and 1 1/2 cups of spring water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then simmer for 2 minutes, then remove tea bags. Continue to simmer the mixture until the rock sugar dissolves.

  3. Discard rind. Ladle soup into serving bowls, flavor with sugar and green-tea mixture. Serve warm or cold.

Cook's Notes

Watermelon rinds add flavor to the broth during cooking.

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