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Chicken soup is a traditional remedy for colds and flu. While scientists may not be able to identify the exact compounds responsible, studies do show that chicken soup has a measurable effect on the immune system. One study found that chicken soup changed the activity of white blood cells in the body and other research showed that it increased the movement of mucus in nasal passages.
In addition to its medicinal effects, chicken soup is hydrating, nutritious, and delicious. This Vietnamese-style version contains onion, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and shiitake mushrooms, ingredients known for their immune boosting, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory actions. It also calls for lime, lemongrass, and fish sauce. If your lime isn’t organic, omit the zest. If you don’t have lemongrass, make this soup anyway. It will still taste delicious.
If you don’t have fish sauce, buy some and try it. Fish sauce is a fermented food, rich in the healthy bacteria that help fight off cold and flu viruses. It doesn’t have the fishy flavor you would expect; instead it adds a salty and savory component to foods. Look for a product that contains only water, fish or fish extract, and salt. Add it at the very end, once the dish is fully cooked, because heat can destroy the probiotic benefits.
If you don’t have leftover chicken to add to this soup, roast four or five chicken thighs in advance. Bone broth is the base of this soup and I highly recommend making your own. I always have some in my freezer and you can find my recipe here.
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or rendered chicken or duck fat
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
- Sea salt
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 cups thinly sliced Savoy cabbage
- 6 cups bone broth
- 2 cups leftover pulled, shredded, or cubed chicken
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 organic lime
- 1 fresh chili pepper, finely chopped (or substitute cayenne pepper to taste)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 cup chopped fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, and basil
- Warm the fat in the bottom of a soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion, celery, bell pepper, and shiitakes. If the vegetables start to stick, add a small pinch of sea salt and reduce the heat slightly. Cook until the vegetables start to brown.
- While the vegetables cook, remove the tough outer layers of the lemongrass stalk. Cut it into thirds and cut each third into half lengthwise. This will expose as much surface area as possible while making it easy to remove later.
- Once the vegetables start to brown, stir in the lemongrass, ginger, cabbage, and a small pinch of salt if you haven’t done so already. Avoid adding too much salt now because the fish sauce you’ll add later will be salty. Cook for one more minute, then add the bone broth, increase the heat, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it starts to simmer, reduce the heat to low and allow it to cook until the vegetables are tender.
- Once the vegetables are tender, grate the garlic and zest the lime directly into the pot. Stir in the chicken and continue cooking until it is heated through, just a few more minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the lemongrass. Stir in the chili pepper, fish sauce, and fresh herbs. Add the juice from one half of the lime, then taste for seasoning and add more if you wish. Make any other necessary adjustments. Serve the soup immediately and garnish with more fresh herbs if you wish.
Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, and Rennard SI. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. 2000;118(4):1150-7.
Saketkhoo K, Januszkiewicz A, and Sackner MA. Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance. Chest. 1978;74(4):408-10.