Chinese yam

Chinese yam – The Important Nourishing Food Herb

Chinese Yam - The Important Nourishing Food Herb

    By Vicky Chan  November 11, 2013


Chinese Yam (Dioscorea opposita) is called Shan Yao (山藥/山药) in Chinese. It is a root that is a spindle-shaped, thick, hard root or tuber up to 1 meter in length and is white on the inside. It is used as both nutritious food and medicine because of its large amounts of mucilage, which is a thick and slimy substance that has a soothing effect on mucous membranes, linings of respiratory passages and stomach.

Chinese medicine classifies Chinese yam as neutral and sweet. It serves to tonify and augment the spleen and stomach; augment the lung yin and tonify the lung qi; and stabilize, tonify, and bind the kidneys. It is used to treat weak digestion with fatigue and diarrhea, general weakness, frequent urination, decreased appetite, leukorrhagia (excessive vaginal discharge), premature ejaculation, the symptoms associated with diabetes, and chronic wheezing (whistling sound caused by breathing difficulty) and coughing. TCM use Chinese yam to mix with other herbs to treat specific sets of symptoms. There are no side effects associated with the use of Chinese yam, no indications of any inter-actions between Chinese yam and any drug or other herbal medicine.

Fresh Chinese yam is commonly used in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisines mostly in soups. However, in Chinese therapeutic cooking, it is also used in making tea, wine, congee, stir-fry, cake and dumpling. It can go with almost any cooking with meat or vegetables or even be eaten raw. Fresh Chinese yam is inexpensive and is widely available in Asian grocery stores and health food stores. If fresh ones are not available, use dried ones instead but make sure you soak them for at least 30 minutes and then rob and rinse them a few times to make sure any preservatives are washed away.

With winter is just around the corner, nothing is better than making a fresh Chinese yam and mutton soup. It will warm you up, soothe your lung and stomach, and prepare your body to combat the cold harsh weather ahead. Please use the search function to find many other recipes in our website cooking with Chinese yam for health.

Fresh Chinese Yam and Mutton Soup



Yang deficiency manifested as always cold with cold hands and feet, lack of appetite and underweight.


Promote yang and nourish spleen to improve appetite, digestion and strengthen the body in general.

INGREDIENTS: (6 servings)


  • Mutton with bone (shoulder or thigh)- 640gm (cut up into pieces)
  • Fresh Chinese yam (shan yao) 淮山 - 200gm
  • Dried longan fruit – a handful
  • Ginger - 10 slices
  • Green Onion – 3 (finely cut)
  • Cooking wine – 2 spoons

1. Wash mutton and put in boiling water to cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove, rinse and drain.

2.  Peel Chinese yam, rinse and cut into slices.

3.  Warm 2 spoons of oil in a pan and stir-fry mutton and ginger for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in 2 spoons of cooking wine follow by a cup of water.

4.  Bring about 2.5 to 3 litres of water in a soup pot to a quick boil. Transfer everything in the pan to the soup pot.

5.  Add Chinese yam and longan fruit to the cooking and let it boil for another 10 minutes. In the meant time, remove foam until the water is clear. Then, reduce heat to medium and let it cook for another 2 hours or more to mutton is tender.

6. Add salt to taste and sprinkle in green onion to serve.


Eat all content with soup. Take a few times for best result.


Click here to read other blog posts