Bedridden with a blanket drawn up to my chin, whiny and fully
of pity for myself, I was never an easy patient as a child. However, there was
one thing that could tease a small smile out of me—a steaming bowl of my
mother’s chicken congee (rice soup).
Mom would throw chicken bones into a stock pot together with
rice, garlic, and ginger. After simmering for hours over a low flame, this
concoction would transform into a smooth, creamy white porridge that I would
slurp up with relish. No matter how sore my throat was or how congested my
sinuses, I was always revitalized.
Modern science has recently discovered that an
amino acid in chicken acts as a decongestant, but chicken soup and many other
herbal soups have been used as curatives in Asian traditions long before that discovery.
Thais eat a dish called Kao
Tom Moo as a cold remedy. It can be made with chicken or pork, but a lot of
garlic and ginger is a must. S’ngao
Chruok Moan, a Cambodian chicken soup, relies on herbs like sawtooth herb
(Mexican coriander), galangal and lemongrass for its sprightly flavor.
A Nepalese soup made with nine different kinds of beans and
legumes called Kawatee is common
consumption during the harsh winters to warm and protect the body. Also, postpartum
and nursing moms harness the benefits of a powerful ingredient—ginger—to stimulate
digestion while ridding the body of gas, a common affliction among women who
have just given birth.
Whether these soups can indeed cure you of your ailments is
not scientifically proven. But when made with love, they can do wonders for
making you feel better, if only in your heart and mind—just the way my mom did.