Hippo Manchester
December 8, 2005


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Food: Chinese soup is magic

Curative powers or just a delicious meal? Maybe both

By Susan Reilly  news@hippopress.com

Food researchers report that more than half of the chicken noodle soup sold in the United States is sold during the flu season.

This is a no-brainer, as we all know that chicken soup is supposed to be a cure-all, at least psychosomatically, for the cold and flu.

While Western chicken noodle soup offers the chicken broth, which has proven decongestant powers, Chinese chicken-based soups take the healing process one step further by mixing in herbs and yin and yang.

Lisa Wu, the owner of the Golden Palace in Milford, said that as soon as her son starts to come down with a cold, she feeds him soup with a dash of hot pepper.

“He asks for it because he knows it will make him feel better.  It is a tradition in our culture and it really works,” she said.

While modern science has confirmed that an amino acid in chicken acts as a decongestant, chicken-based soups have long been used as a curative in Asian cultures. Historians have discovered that 10th-century Egyptians were downing bowls of chicken soup to beat the common cold.

Soup, although a simple conglomeration of flavors, is actually complex when it comes to healing. Chinese medicine is based on the forces of yin and yang, which can be represented by ingredients.

Yin represents negative energy and the cooling forces, while yang represents positive energy and the warming forces. The Chinese believe that when you are sick, the two forces are out of balance and the life force (qi) in your body has been disrupted.

If you have a cold, it’s because your body has too much yin and you should drink a soup with yang ingredients, such as chicken, designed to restore the balance. A fever should be treated with a yin soup.

But it is the use of herbs and spices beyond salt and pepper that may make a difference between western and eastern chicken soups.

One big difference is that Chinese soups often contain ginger, a yang food ubiquitous in Chinese cooking, believed to aid digestion, and garlic, a common cure- all.

Now that it is clear that Chinese soups may actually be a better option to beat that cold or flu than Grandma’s simple recipe, where do you get it when the sniffles hit?

Fortunately, almost every Chinese restaurant offers a selection of soups. Good news: they are ready for take-out and often very economical.