The common cure?

By Jennifer Westlake
Recipe By Anthony Kinik

A steaming bowl of chicken soup has long been associated with healing comfort. When you’re suffering through the misery of a runny nose and throbbing headache, it has immediate emotional benefi ts at the very least.

But is there more to it than that?

Researchers at the University of Nebraska decided to find out. Studying samples of both home made and commercial products, they found that chicken soup inhibits neutrophils, white blood cells associated with infl ammation. Their conclusion, published in 2000 in the medical journal, Chest, was that chicken soup might have a mild anti-infl ammatory effect.

Does that mean that chicken soup is a cure for the common cold? Although this blend of homey folklore and hard science makes an appealing feel-good story, nutritionists take these study results with a grain of salt. Nutritionist Viviane Troche would not describe chicken soup as a cold cure, saying, “Too many unknowns remain to be analyzed.”

Karine Levy, another Montreal-based nutritionist, points out that as the University of Nebraska research was an in vitro study, it has limited signifi cance. The milieu of the Petri dish is a far cry from the complex environment of the human body. Still, Troche says that taking hot fl uids like bouillons and herbal teas when a cold hits is a good idea, particularly since most people tend to be habitually under hydrated.

Citing another study published in Chest in 1978 that compared the effects of drinking hot water, cold water and chicken soup on relieving nasal congestion, Levy recognizes that soup and other hot liquids definitely help soothe the awful pressure of a stuffed nose, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Feed a Fever

She emphasizes, “As a dietician, I would not suggest that chicken soup cures cold symptoms.” However, given its soothing effects, “Chicken soup has been and will continue to be a very popular way to treat cold symptoms.” So make yourself a bowl. Feel better soon.

Soto Ayam Indonesian Chicken Noodle Soup


  • 1 3lb chicken, quartered
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, bruised
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 oz thin dried rice noodles
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint and cilantro leaves
  • 2 eggs, boiled, peeled, and halved
  • Quartered limes and chili paste for serving
  1. Place chicken in a medium pot with lemon grass, lime leaves, salt, and 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off foam and reduce heat. Cover and gently simmer until the chicken is tender, roughly 45 minutes, skimming as necessary.
  2. Remove chicken pieces from broth and set aside. Remove and discard the lemon grass and lime leaves, reserving the stock. When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and shred meat into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Combine peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds in a small food processor or spice grinder. Pulse until ground. Add shallots, garlic, turmeric, and ginger and pulse to a thick paste.
  4. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. When oil is very hot, add spice paste and stir until paste is cooked and beginning to separate from oil, roughly 5 minutes.
  5. Add cooked curry paste and chicken meat to the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
  6. Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package.
  7. Turn off heat under soup and add lime juice.
  8. To serve, divide the noodles into soup bowls. Ladle chicken pieces and soup on top, sprinkle with herbs, and dress with a boiled egg half. Serve with extra lime wedges and chili paste.

Feeds 4.

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Winter 2011, Vol 3 N°1

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