Comfort food on a cold day

One of the great things about having Chinese friends is that they really know how to look after you when you’re ill! I dropped into the restaurant for which I work as a consultant, Barshu, earlier this week with a rotten cold, and the manager, Juanzi, told me I should be eating 粥 (congee). She persuaded me to stay for half an hour while the chefs whipped some up in a pressure cooker – and so I left with a wonderful potful of sleek congee laced with slivered ginger, sliced 皮蛋 (preserved duck eggs, a.k.a. ‘Thousand-year-old eggs’), and pork ribs so tender they were falling off the bone. Oh, and two little packages of pickled vegetables to eat with the congee, and another potful of stewed Chinese honey dates 蜜棗 with crystal sugar. Yum yum.

Have any of you blog readers had similar experiences? What are your favourite Chinese comfort foods?

17 Responses to “Comfort food on a cold day”

  1. Jenny

    whenever I am sick, my mother boils me a lovely, warm concoction of red sugar and ginger. Does wonders!

    In terms of comfort foods though, I’m from Chengdu so have say a hot plate of mapo tofu on rice.

  2. Ryan Moore

    A pot of black chicken soup with mushrooms does wonders…

  3. Volker

    I remember seeing people eat Sichuan Hot Pot outside, in the streets of Chengdu, in the middle of winter and wearing nothing but their t-shirts. Despite the freezing cold they looked pretty comfortable to me..

  4. mel

    Any hot chicken or pork based soup preferably with some dumplings or noodles. Breathe in the hot vapors and feel better.
    Soup dumplings are also very comforting.

  5. billy@ATFT

    my mum always made congee with marmite, and fermented tofu when I was sick. Although i much prefer to go with some vinegared pork rib and eggs.

  6. Kake

    I’m with you on the congee. (It’s also pretty good hangover food!)

  7. Fuchsia

    Yes, chicken soup is a fairly international comfort food, isn’t it?! And I agree with Ryan about the black chicken soup with mushrooms.

    As for Jenny’s mapo doufu – my English equivalent of nostalgic comfort food is definitely shepherd’s pie.

    Funnily enough, Billy, I’ve also eaten congee with marmite when ill – marmite somehow seems very Chinese, akin to soy sauce, black beans and all those other delicious fermented foods, even if they don’t actually have it in China!

  8. James

    I guess the addage “starve a cold” doesn’t apply… ;-) I guess it depends for me on what needs “comforting.” When I am physically sick, I usually just rely on hot tea, iced tea, and sleep. I have no appetite to eat even chicken soup. When I get hungry again, I know I’m feeling better, so something with some spice to it to keep the sinuses clear!

    When I am unhappy (I am hesitant to use the word “depressed” since it now has so many connotations) cooking a duck usually improves my mood. It’s a good bit of work, requires concentration, and done well the rewards are, well, rewarding! So, that’s the comfort food for the soul.

    As for the nostalgia, I’m somewhat fortunate that both my parents are excellent cooks. My father took cooking lessons in the 1960’s from a local chef on PBS named Julia Child… My favorite dinner when he cooks is chicken supremes. Simple and elegant. (He also learned Chinese cooking from Mai Leung – http://tinyurl.com/yhmksfv and taught me when I was in high school.) My mother is a fairly traditional US southern cook, and makes wonderful fried chicken.

  9. Lizzie

    My Cantonese grandmother used to make me congee with dried scallops when I was ill – it was perfect comfort food. It never occured to me to make it in a pressure cooker.

  10. Jody

    Any type of jook or overcook rice with salted fish was the Chinese penicillum. A cold day was a pot of Nor Mai Fan, aka stick rice, with lop cheung, salty turnip, dried shrimp and lop yeuk.

  11. Mart

    Chickensoup! And ginger, caramom, honey tea! Pressure cooker congee, good idea. Haven’t got a pressure cooker and am looking for an excuse. Can you use the standard quantities?

  12. Hailyn

    My mother always made me chicken soup in our old-fashioned rice cooker (the ones where you put water around the pot) — lots of ginger, dried shitake mushrooms. For head colds or respiratory infections, it was soup with pork ribs, watercress and frozen, spongy tofu. We always ate “cooling” or “heating” foods to bring our health into balance. Cooling soups included sweetned green mung bean and barley soup, or a sweet soup with white “wood ear” fungus, red jujubes, gingko nuts, lotus seeds, lily bulbs. There are also certain foods that women recuperating from childbirth must eat: chicken stewed with copious amounts of sesame oil, stewed pork hocks.

  13. Jessie

    I also crave chicken soup when i’m ill (specifically my mum’s, with matzo balls), but i l discovered recently that according to tcm, chicken is actually bad for you when you’ve got a cold. so, mother’s home remedies, or 2000 years of tcm’s wisdom?!

  14. ault

    I’m currently nursing the end stages of a cold; you question elicited cravings for menudo (Mexican tripe stew) which I used to eat when the lurgy struck (although it is perhaps better known as a hangover cure).

  15. Jenny

    I love that congee dish! Mum makes it for me when I’m under the weather too. Perks me right up =]

  16. Sarah

    I often boil up ginger and chinese red dates with brown sugar into a lovely, spicy syrup that I then pour over silken tofu slices. Chill for a few hours, and then pure comfort. This taste invokes a sense of deep nostalgia, although I am not Chinese and didn’t grow up eating anything of the sort.

  17. edson

    Hi Fuchsia, we will be joining you in China next May (can’t wait). We love congee – how is it made in a pressure cooker (a device I am yet to get, but which has been on my mind for some time)?

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