You notice an itch tickling the back of your throat, but brush it off as a remnant of the family-sized bag of Hot Cheetos you devoured last night. Then the itch turns into a burning ache, then a hacking cough, and all of a sudden you find yourself bedridden and miserable. Never in my 18 years of life have I come down with the flu—a badge of honor I wear proudly and attribute begrudgingly to my mom’s strict enforcement of proper flu season protocol. In addition to the standard practices (bundling up, consuming copious amounts of vitamin C, drinking piping hot beverages, etc.), each new winter signified the reintegration of her anti-viral dishes, chock-full of nutrient-rich ingredients, into my diet. As flu season rolls around just in time for yet another orbit around the sun, here are some of my mom’s home remedies for beating the flu.

Ginger Soup

Photo by Jocelyn Morales on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

Despite my aversion to all things ginger, I will admit it’s no secret that the herb has numerous health benefits, the most pertinent being its ability to fight the flu and common cold. Combine ginger with the soothing properties of a warm bowl of soup, and you get a dependable combat against coughing and congestion. If I ever felt so much as a tickle in my throat, my mom would immediately sit me down, throw a generous handful of sliced home-grown ginger into a pot of boiling water, and hold me hostage at the kitchen table until there wasn’t a drop of soup left. 

#SpoonTip: Pop a piece of rock sugar (冰糖) into your bowl if you're an avid hater of ginger as well!


Xifan (稀饭)—also known as zhou (粥), jook, or congee—is a warm rice porridge. The versatile dish is often dressed up with various toppings such as cabbage, sweet potato, pickled vegetables, and pork floss (or anything, really; my dad loved getting creative with his toppings and served for breakfast. To me however, xifan above all else. To me however, xifan is a sick food above all else. In essence, it’s just cooked rice boiled in water until the grains exude enough starch to form a thick porridge. Without any extra add-ins or flavoring, the dish is immaculately bland—perfect for times when you can’t keep anything else down.

Wuji Chicken Soup

Just about everyone recognizes and acknowledges chicken soup as a universal food for the ill. My mom, however, takes it to the next level by substituting the classic white chicken meat for wu ji (乌鸡), or Chinese silkie meat. One major factor that differentiates silkies from other chicken breeds is the black color of their bones, meat, and skin. Fibromelanosis, a rare genetic mutation of hyperpigmentation, is the condition to which this breed owes its distinctive hue. Silkie meat is packed with nutrients that help boost the immune system with high vitamin B, C, and E content, as well as protein, amino acids, and antioxidants.

Boiled/Steamed Pear

One of my favorite home remedies, this refreshing dessert is made using Asian pear, also known as Nashi pear or Chinese white pear. The fruit is distinguishable from other pear varieties you may be more familiar with by its apple-like shape and firm, crunchy texture. When cooked, it turns soft and translucent. Asian pears reduce phlegm and are a go-to solution for coughs and sore throats in many Asian culture. Here are two ways to use them in this dish.

The first is—surprise, surprise—in a soup. Cut the pear into thick slices, then boil in water. This method is faster and produces more juice. It also allows for the incorporation of a greater number of additional ingredients; my mom always added tremella (银耳), lily bulb (白合), Chinese red dates (红枣), and goji berries (枸杞), all of which have healing properties that add nutritional value and further nourish the body. The second method involves removing the top and core of the pear, drizzling honey or putting rock sugar into the hollow center, and then steaming the pear whole. Steaming takes longer than boiling but achieves a stronger taste—plus it gets bonus points for presentation!

That itch in the back of your throat might not bother you now, but there’s nothing worse than waking up the morning of an important exam with the sniffles. In the face of dropping temperatures, be mindful of the foods you consume and how they can help keep you healthy amidst a storm of spreading germs. The next time your classmate coughs on you, consider one of my mom’s go-to home remedies to give your immune system the extra boost it could probably use!