Chef Essig's Featured Item of the Week

Mmm... Mmm... Chicken Dumpling Soup is Yummy!

My joy of cooking started when I was very young, and my grandmother was a big influence. She always seemed to be in the kitchen -- either making breakfast, whipping up lunch, or working on dinner. My cousin and I would often help out with the animals which occasionally included chasing chickens back into their pen.


It was very educational living around farm animals. One thing I learned is that chickens are not always intimidated by small children and will often chase them back. We would often get off the school bus and either have to chase the chickens away from the road or have them chase us into the house. My grandma was always there to keep an eye out for any chicken that may be getting a little too “cocky.” This behavior was a sure sign that they would soon make it onto my grandmother's menu. One of my favorite dishes that my grandma would make was Chicken and Dumplings. She would make it often, especially if someone was sick.


Chicken soup has long been known as a remedy for the common cold. It may not be a cure, but seems to help us to feel better anyway.

What History & The experts say

In 60 AD, Pedacius Dioscorides (physician under the Roman emperor Nero) recommended chicken soup for respiratory illness. This was one of the first records of chicken soup being used as a cold remedy. There are also records of it being prescribed by Moses Maimonides (12th-century court physician and theologian) as a cold and asthma remedy to the Sultan Saladin, the Muslim military leader he served.

Irwin Ziment, M.D., pulmonary specialist and professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, says that chicken soup contains drug-like agents similar to those in modern cold medicines. Cysteine, an amino acid released from chicken in cooking, chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, often prescribed for bronchitis. Pungent ingredients added to chicken soup, such as garlic, cayenne pepper, and curry are ancient treatments for respiratory diseases. They work the same way as expectorant drugs and cough medicines. The more garlic and hot spices added to chicken soup, Ziment says, the better the soup will be at clearing your lungs.


Anti-Inflamatory Properties

Stephen Rennard, M.D. (Chief of Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha) declared chicken soup anti-inflammatory after testing 19 samples. Along with homemade recipes, Rennard tested 13 commercial chicken soups and found that all but one, chicken-flavor ramen noodles, had some anti-inflammatory activity.

what's in chicken soup that gives it such good curative properties?

  • Onions contain protein, calcium, sulfur, vitamin A, B complex, C and E. The sulfur compounds have anti-inflammatory effects. Like garlic, onions have the antibiotic oil allicin, which gives them their pungent flavor.
  • Garlic has powerful antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties. It is known for boosting the immune system, lowering blood pressure, assisting in treatment of heart disease and lowering cholesterol.
  • Carrots are one of the best sources for beta-carotene. The body takes beta-carotene and converts it to vitamin A. Vitamin A helps prevent and fight off infections by enhancing the actions of white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.
  • Celery promotes restfulness and sleep. Its high magnesium and iron content is invaluable as a food for blood cells. Celery is also known to be good for lung conditions, including asthma and bronchitis.
  • Parsley contains volatile oils that qualify it as a "chemoprotective" food - a food that can neutralize particular types of carcinogens.
  • Sea Salt has a natural balance of sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Mineral salts create electrolytes. Electrolytes are necessary for enzyme production. Enzymes are responsible for breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, muscle function and hormone production. Electrolytes and enzymes are linked to healthy immune function.
  • Black pepper contains volatile oils, alkaloids, proteins and minerals. It is thought to be a circulatory stimulant, diuretic and cerebral stimulant. It reduces infection, diaphoretic (induces sweating), astringent (tightens mucous membranes) and stimulates sinuses to drain.

Cherished Recipes from childhood

The dumplings were always my favorite part of my grandmother’s soup. These dumplings were large, flavorful, and firm -- yet they were soft on the outside from being simmered in the chicken soup for hours. At about age 11, I started to gather recipes from my grandma. I cherish these recipes because they represent special memories from my childhood. I share one of my grandma's recipes in the menus here at UNC -- Chicken and Dumpling Soup.


Whether you are feeling under the weather or feeling great, come join us at Tobey-Kendel Dining Room for Lunch on Friday, January 21st for a taste of a comfort food favorite. Keep yourself healthy during this cold season, and join us regularly for delicious and nutritious meals!

Bon Apetit!

Executive Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

Chef Aran Essig, CEC, CCA

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