You would think that people would only get sick in winter, but since last week Mr Taiwanxifu and Taiwanxifu Toddler have been down with nasty colds. Which has now resulted in nasty coughs. Time for a failsafe Chinese food remedy for coughs popular in Taiwan — stewed nashi pears.
This recipe is so simple that many of my Taiwanese readers must wonder why I am posting this at all. But I was fascinated to learn the steaming technique for making these stewed nashi pears. Many Taiwanese have grown up with electric rice cookers, especially the well-known house-hold brand ‘Ta-tung’ that has been manufactured in Taiwan since 1958. Countless Taiwanese students have travelled abroad to study with a prized Ta-tung rice cooker as an essential part of their luggage. To the average Westerner, though, the electric rice cooker (or in fact any type of steamer) is a little scary. Or at least, it was to me until we purchased a Ta-tung electric cooker and I started using it on a daily basis. It is now an indispensable item in my kitchen.
This recipe only requires two ingredients: nashi pears and rock sugar. Taiwan produces beautiful, big nashi pears in its mountainous, high-altitude regions. They are almost starting to come in season now ahead of their peak around the early October mid-Autumn festival, where they are often given as gifts. The rock sugar is essential, but I am not entirely sure why. While you can and should eat the stewed pears, the bit that is really of benefit is the sweet, pear-scented liquid that results from the stewing process. This is wonderful for sore, scratchy throats and helps with persistent coughs — especially dry coughs. Try it and see!
1 large or two medium-sized nashi pears
2-3 tablespoons rock sugar
1. Peel the nashi pears. Cut and core and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with rock sugar.
2. Place the bowl of nashi pear slices in an electric rice cooker (I steamed some baozi buns at the same time, just to be energy efficient). Pour one rice cup of water into the base of the cooker. Put on the lid, turn the cooker on and steam for around 15 minutes until ready. Enjoy the pear and stewing liquid while still warm.
3. Note: do not add any water to the pear slices themselves. They do not require any liquid for cooking. The steam from the electric cooker will help draw out moisture from the pears producing its prized fragrant, syrupy liquid.
If you do not have an electric cooker, you can steam the pears using a saucepan. Place the bowl of pears on a trivet in a saucepan. Pour around 3/4 a cup of water under the trivet and bring to a boil. Place a lid on the saucepan, reduce the heat and cook for around 15 minutes.