Recipe - "Sickbuster" Chicken Coconut Soup

[This was originally posted in December 2010] This soup has been a sick-busting lifesaver. I first made it in college when I got sick right before a convention that I was helping run. I was desperate for a cure-all and after reading about all of the food remedies out there, I wondered if combining every ingredient together would create a powerful and potent potion for my ailments. Surprise surprise when it worked like a charm! The soup puts you into a temporary feverish state while consuming (I discovered this happened every time) where you just sweat and heat up but then about an hour or so later, everything clears up. I was fine and dandy almost right away and staved off sickness. Now, I'm not a doctor or anything but it's worked for friends and me time and time again, so I'll just leave it up to you to experience its mystical powers through this recipe. It's also prudent to note that coconut milk, which is a main ingredient, can give people the runs so don't go drinking the whole pot in one go! Moderation is always key. In terms of taste, think of a Thai coconut soup. Here are the reasons why I chose the ingredients that went into this bowl of sick-busting chicken coconut soup:

  • Chicken stock/broth - We've all felt the woes of illness and have wanted chicken soup before. Not only does it warm you up and make you feel good overall, it also contains cysteine (an amino acid similar to another used to treat throat infections) and potentially an anti-inflammatory trait. It could help with your symptoms.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes - These supposedly help with pain and inflammation via peppers' inherent inclusion of capsaicin which promotes circulation. From past experience, I've always found that the heat and spiciness of peppers relieves pain even if temporarily but on a more specific level, it is the carotenoids in them that assist in that relief (they're antioxidants!). The crushed red pepper also includes polyphenols, known antioxidants that may strengthen the immune system. On a general level, haven't you felt their power in clearing up your sinuses and congestion anyway?
  • Ginger - Having grown up in a traditional Chinese household, ginger has always been the go-to for curing ailments. I never knew why but just obediently followed along and often have ginger ale to help when my stomach is out of sorts. When I looked it up later, I was pleased to see that it wasn't just folk medicine at work. Ginger is very effective for any type of nausea, indigestion, respiratory problems (coughs, etc), and circulation issues. It's probably also one of the reasons why you would sweat with this soup as it encourages the sweating. I also thought it was neat that it is also antiseptic!
  • Garlic - I've always known that garlic has plenty of redeeming qualities beside being just delicious. Anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-microbial, it is a whammy of a cure-all ingredient. Allicin and sulfuric compounds are attributed for the antibiotic and anti-viral traits (also a fungicide) and are great stimulants for the immune system. To get the most out of these components, make sure the garlic is crushed or chewed.
  • Lemon juice - It's not just vitamin C you should crave from this juice. Lemons are also antibacterial and anti-viral. They help with digestion and the immune system, fighting infections with various vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium, bioflavonoids, and limonene.
  • Coconut milk - I had no idea until I researched it while thinking up this soup that coconut milk was antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-viral because of its lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids, and capric acid.

Convinced yet? Here's the recipe -

Step 1: Ingredients (yields 4 bowls)
  • 1 qt chicken stock/broth
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 chunk of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 lemon (juice only)
  • 14 oz. unsweetened coconut milk, whole fat
  • sea salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • green onion, for garnish
Step 2: Prepping ingredients
Bring chicken broth to a boil. Prep other ingredients and add together into a small bowl (only the pepper flakes, ginger, garlic, and lemon juice). Let these soak in each other while you are watching the stock.

Step 3: Finishing
Add in remaining ingredients (coconut milk and the soaked spices). Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with green onion. Lastly, get better and drink plenty of tea. I hate being sick too.

Photography by Duc Duong.