A traditional Chinese home remedy for cough relief. Steamed or boiled pear with rock sugar is a delightful dessert very easy to prepare.
We all love to receive a special treat from time to time. I still remember pretending to have a bad cough and looking forward to the sweet home remedy that my mum prepared. Most of the time I got away with my little lie (of course my mum knew my tricks) and was offered a bowl of fruit dessert freshly cooked in our tiny kitchen. “Don’t be so impatient. It’s too hot to have it right away!” my mum would say. It was steamed or boiled pear with rock sugar and Goji berries, a popular Chinese remedy for cough relief.
Recently I accidentally found Asian pears in a local supermarket. Delighted, I bought some and cooked them that very night even though no one was sick in our Red House (luckily). Asian pear, also known as Nashi pear or Chinese white pear, is quite different from pears commonly found in Europe. It has a smooth, pale yellow skin with some brown speckles. Its shape varies: some are like pears; others resemble apples. I love the texture of raw Asian pears which is firm, crunchy and very juicy. For this reason, they make a wonderful ingredient for salad. When cooked with rock sugar, Asian pear turns transparent and soft. I adore their melt-in-your-mouth texture and strong aroma enhanced by the sweetness of the rock sugar.
In China, steamed or boiled pear with rock sugar is the most popular dessert in the cold seasons. It is believed that the combination of these two ingredients has certain medicinal benefits. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this dessert can reduce excessive phlegm to effectively ease coughs caused by the common cold. I’m not able to confirm its effectiveness. However, I can guarantee its wonderful taste that will please your palate on all occasions. It’s a perfect warming dessert on cold winter days, and also a refreshing treat served cold when you need something to cool down.
Apart from pear and rock sugar, I often add two more Chinese ingredients: dried Goji berries for both versions and dried Chinese dates for the boiled one. They are often used in preparing Chinese tonic soups because they both are considered to be part of traditional Chinese medicine. Goji berries taste a little bit like raisins, but nuttier and less sweet. Chinese dates (aka Jujube) is very different from palm dates which are commonly available in Europe. Again it’s less sweet but has a more complex taste. Not only do these two ingredients add more interesting flavours to this dish, they also give the dish an appealing colour.
There are two ways to cook it: steam or boil. The steamed version takes longer but gives you a more intense flavour since there is no water added. The pear stays in shape so it’s more visually appealing (great choice to impress your guests). You only need half the time to finish the boiled version and you might prefer having more juice to enjoy.
Give it a try on Valentine’s Day when everyone deserves something warm and sweet.