Grandma was right: Scientific research shows that chicken soup relieves cold symptoms. While scientists haven’t identified exactly how it all works, they have found that a steaming hot bowl of chicken soup soothes the upper respiratory system and clears nasal passages when the common cold strikes.
For most of us, classic chicken noodle is the go-to for getting well, but almost every country and culture has its own version. Start with chicken broth and add international ingredients to take your dish in dramatically different flavor directions.
Matzo Ball Soup
Not so jokingly referred to as “Jewish Penicillin,” this is the soup I grew up on and the kind researchers used to test chicken soup’s curative powers. Matzo balls are bread-like dumplings made with matzo meal (ground matzo) that add a bit of heft to the broth and vegetable combination and turn the dish into a filling meal.
Everybody’s family has their own way of preparing it, but mine must include parsnips, carrots, onion and dill. The research that confirmed chicken soup makes you feel better was conducted using Grandma’s Recipe, but use your taste as a guide and feel free to get creative with the veggies you include.
Greek Avgolemono Soup
This chicken soup with eggs (avgo) and lemons (lemono) has long been a staple dish in Greece. The eggs whisked expertly into the chicken broth gives the soup a lovely velvety quality, and the fragrant lemon adds a bit of brightness.
Mastering the recipe may take some practice — it requires “tempering” the eggs that go into the broth to achieve the right creamy consistency. Make sure to read the instructions here to ensure you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.
Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup
The beautiful deep red color of some Mexican Chicken Tortilla soup comes from the addition of tomatoes, cooked at a low heat with chicken broth to bring out a rich, full flavor. Chile peppers add spice, tortilla strips add crunch and avocado, ranchero cheese or sour cream refreshes with cool creaminess.
Another benefit of this hearty variation: its spices can break through the taste-deadening effect of a severely stuffed up nose, and the cool avocado slices offer relief to a sore throat.
Chinese Egg Drop Soup
A staple at most Chinese restaurants, this simple, delicious soup is also called Egg Flower Soup for the way the beaten eggs form petal-like swirls as they are dropped into the hot chicken broth. It uses just a few ingredients to delicious effect — chicken stock, eggs, scallion, and white or black pepper — and while it’s easy to pick up a carton from the nearest takeout spot, you probably have the ingredients on hand to make it at home.
Vietnamese Pho Ga
In Vietnam, pho (pronounced fuh) is a breakfast food, often picked up from a street vendor on the way to work. Pho Ga is the light chicken broth version that is packed with noodles, vegetables, shredded chicken and fresh herbs. Jalapeno rings add a burst of heat that will help clear your sinuses, while the fragrant broth nourishes and comforts your ailing body.
Italian Chicken and Escarole Soup
The bitter leafy green escarole may not be a refrigerator staple at your house, but in many Italian homes it is a side dish just like collard or mustard greens. Escarole has that same dense texture when added to this soup, making it a healthy substitute for noodles. That makes a good match for the little meatballs in this Italian favorite, especially when topped with a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.
Scottish Cock-a-Leekie Soup
Scotland’s National Soup is made with chicken and leeks (thus the name) and thickened with barley, so it’s closer to a stew than a soup. The secret ingredient? Dried prunes. It sounds unusual, but they add a welcome hint of sweetness to break through all the other earthy components.