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Chinese medicine that tastes good: 冰糖蒸雪梨


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Lots of Chinese medicine tastes nasty, but steamed pears with rock sugar (冰糖蒸雪梨) is a notable and delicious exception. According to TCM, this concoction helps cure dry cough by dissipating excess internal heat and moisturizing the lungs. That is usually termed 润肺 or 补肺。


I made some yesterday. Let me take you through the process.


Snow pears 雪梨 are about the size of a tennis ball and more or less round. In the west they are sometimes called "Asian pears." The ones I bought here in Kunming were more expensive than common smaller pears, which often have odd shapes, scars and blemishes. They were even individually wrapped with thin plastic and woven cushion mesh. Still, they were far from prohibitive, at about 8 yuan per kilo.


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First wash the pear and slice the bottom so that it will be able to stand straight while cooking. Then cut off a section of the top and retain it as a cap. Remove the seeds and hollow out the base by using the tip of a paring knife and a small spoon.


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Add some rock sugar 冰糖 and, if you wish, a few gouqi berries 枸杞 (aka wolfberry) as well. Don't fill the cavity completely full since the pear will release juice as it steams. The best 枸杞 come from Ningxia 宁夏。


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Reattach the cap with three or four toothpicks. Put it in a shallow bowl that you then set in a covered steamer.


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It's ready after simmering an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how large and how ripe your pear was when you began. When finished, it should be tender but not mushy. Easy to check it by sticking it with a toothpick.


Lift it out and let it cool an hour or so if you can stand to wait that long. When it reaches room temperature or becomes mildly warm, remove the cap. You can eat it like that with a spoon or you can slice it up. If your steamer pot is large enough, it's easy to make several at the same time.


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I've read that the pear can also be sliced initially and cooked with the other two ingredients in a covered ceramic soup dish 盅 like Cantonese steamed soup. Several other variations include making this with fluffy white mushrooms 白木耳 and sliced dry jujubes 红枣。The best 红枣 come from Xinjiang 新疆。


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Give it a try it and see what you think. Chances are good that will help your cough and leave you with a smile.

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The point Lips and Mouseneb made is interesting and important. Lots of health problems in China are traditionally approached by prescribing certain foods and drinks. So much so that a special category has been created, namely that of 食疗 or medicinal foods. 食物 (foods) that 治疗 (treat or cure illness.)


In fact it seems to me after living in China several years that this kind of "food therapy" is much more popular here than in the west. When I look up recipes on the internet, they often include mention of what curative properties might be expected from this or that dish.


Haha,  陈德聪, I meant Chinese dates. Don't think I ever ate them before coming here or thought about what they were called. One of my early Chinese teachers, who had a background in TCM, suggested that I get in the habit of eating three a day to "invigorate my Qi." Nearly a decade later, I still do it. 

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That looks good. Do you think it would work with other types of pears? Our pear tree is doing well and by September will be ready to pick and I never really know what to do with them.


We always get too many and I have to try and find ways to serve them and preserve them. This looks like a nice alternative.

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Shelley, I agree with the comments just above by Annonymoose and 陈德聪。Not sure whether it would work well or not. I think success would hinge on the two factors just mentioned: texture and shape.


These Asian snow pears are pretty round in shape, they don't taper to a thin top. Also they are pretty large. Their size and round shape makes them easy to hollow out.


But, of course, if the shape were different, you could slice them before steaming and put them into one or two of those small ceramic Cantonese soup cups that have lids. (Called 盅。) Add other ingredients as desired to the 盅。




The next issue then becomes texture, and you would have to be the judge of how to handle that variable. Asian snow pears have firm and crunchy flesh. But I found recipes on the Chinese internet calling for cooking times as short as 20 minutes when different kinds of pears were used. So you could adjust it yourself by trial and error, adapting it to the variety of pears you use.


But in any case, you are so very lucky to have your own pear tree. Is there sometimes a partridge in it? Hope so, at least at Christmas!

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There is never a partridge in it, but lots of other birds :)


It is a Conference pear, these are very firm pears. They do have the tapered top but it is a small proportion of the whole thing.


I have cooked them in the past and they do cook beautifully. I think I will try, we will have lots and if it is a failure it wouldn't be terrible.


In the mean time the cherry trees are heavy with ripening cherries and in a few days I will be making lots of cherry pies, and preserves.


I have done a similar thing with our apples, take out the core and fill with brown sugar and raisins and bake in the oven till fluffy, the apples are big firm cookers - Bramelys.


We will be getting our first crop from the new plum tree this year and we will see what we can do with them.


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If they were all growing in a garden that was mine, in a warm part of China, I would be in heaven. So you have half of my dream :) and I have the other half. I suppose no one gets everything they want.

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Thank you for pointing that out Shuoshuo. Lips introduced the concept of 食疗 food therapy in post 3 and now you have added the concept of 药膳 medical cuisine.


Both these notions are commonly encountered in China, either in an informal context such as "奶奶 always used to make me 鸡汤 when I got sick with 感冒 as a child" and in a more sophisticated form, such as the Emperor's Physicians making him special dishes to keep his mood tranquil and his energies in balance. One often gets glimpses of the latter in dynasty movies.


Though some of this thinking exists in the West, it is not at all mainstream and pretty rudimentary compared to China, where a huge and ancient corpus exists. I think of this as a distinguishing feature which sets the two cultures apart.


Having lived here for some time among native Chinese friends, I've gradually adopted some of these beliefs and find them helpful in my personal health maintenance efforts. For example, my lungs are not the best and I often eat one or another cooked pear dish to bolster them.


Sometimes I slowly stew 罗汉果 in a clay pot to make a decoction for the same purpose. On other days I drop a slice of 甘草 into my cup of 菊花 tea to sooth the tickle in my throat. And at other times I turn to 胖大海 for cough relief.


I would hasten to add that I don't really move between these various remedies with great skill and knowledge, often just learning as I go along, listening to the suggestions of wise acquaintances and friends.

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As informative and enlightening as ever, abcd!


My partner makes something similar, but slices the pear in half before cooking it for a very long time along with 红枣, then forcing me to drink it at an incredibly hot temperature. This usually occurs after an innocent cough. She never puts in rock sugar, but rather does it with a healthy dose of honey. This may be an example of cultural fusion as my mother and grandmother both constantly admonish me to have some honey water if I'm sick, and she may have picked up on that. I have also never seen it stuffed like that - I shall try it next time I have a cough!


Speaking of goji berries, I have a ginormous bag of trail mix chock full of goji. Perhaps I should pull some out and find a pear!

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Whether or not it cures your innocent cough, the mixture will doubtless invigorate your Qi. I also find that 枸杞 and 红枣 help make my speaking tones more 标准。

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Made these snow pears with rock sugar a different, slightly simpler, way this past weekend. Instead of hollowing out the pear through a cap in the top, I simply cut the large pear in half and then scooped out the seeds using a spoon. That surgical approach required less concentration and the result tasted just as rich.


First snapshot is before being steamed for an hour and the second one is after being taken out of the steamer. (I added some sliced jujube dates 红枣 on the side.)


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An advantage 优点 of this approach is that the steaming takes less time than when the pear is steamed whole: 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the pear.


A disadvantage 缺点 is that it doesn't look as nice as when the whole pear is steamed as a single unit. It isn't as impressive when served. I prefer carving the whole pear at the table, kind of like carving a Thanksgiving turkey. Makes for a somewhat "special" presentation.


And the 红枣 are not very pretty when cooked; they develop a muddy brown color. I will leave them out next time and only use 枸杞 berries.

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