Steamed Pear with Rock Sugar – home remedy for cough & sore throat

When I did my grocery shopping few days ago, I saw a big sales for Asian pears. The mountain high pears remind me of a tasty home remedy for cough and sore throat that is common in this season. It is the traditionally famous Steam Pears with Rock Sugar, from the Chinese culture.

In my practice, I rarely prescribe Chinese herbal medicine unless it is necessary. My theory is: If the patient is able to feel better with a little home remedy or change in lifestyle and to return the body to the natural balance, why medicine?

In direct translation from Chinese classical texts, steam pears with rock sugar have the benefits of to reduce phlegm, clear heat, moisten the lung, and cool the heart. To put this in the modern context, steam pears with rock sugar can help to reduce swollen throat, smooth irritation at throat, reduce cough (especially loud ones), prevent dehydration of respiratory tract, clear phlegm, and reduce fever. In one sentence, it is good for cough with phlegm from common cold or allergy/irritation.

From my experience, it is also good for dry cough or dry throat. And, to my surprise, it sometimes helps with constipation that sometimes comes with prolong cough or fever. For elderly or children who are more prone to seasonal flu, this is also a good remedy for flu prevention. One more thing is that pears are in season now, and it is always good to consume food while it is in season. According to USA Pears, most pears are usually in season from fall to early spring.

Lets talk about the ingredients. As the name of this remedy, the two core ingredients are pears and rock sugar. Additional ingredients can be added for additional benefits. Here is a short list for the common ones that people usually like to use and can be found in supermarket here in US. Of course, you can always go to the Chinese grocery or herbal shops to look for them.

  • Gou Qi Berries – It is good for people with dry or tired eyes. This is one of the few herbs that boost both yin and yang energy and still taste good, so some people call Gou Qi berries the long life berries. Hence, it is just a wonderful add-on for general health boost. You can read more about this tiny fruit from this article.
  • Yin Er – There are many names to this wonderful fungus. Let me list a few here. Tremella fuciformis, White wood ear, silver ear fungus, snow fungus, white jelly mushrooms, and etc. There are many many benefits of this herb, but the most famous benefit is that it can make your skin look more beautiful. The theory behind it is that this fungus has the function of keeping the respiratory tract and the lung in a good moisture balance and also nourish the yin. Lung, in traditional Chinese medicine, is the organ that control the skin, and yin energy is all about soft, smooth, moist, and etc. Therefore, this herb has the effect to keep the skin soft, smooth, and nicely nourished. In addition, it taste good in sweet soup, so Chinese, especially ladies, like to put this in whenever they are making sweet soup-like dishes.
  • Chen Pi – It is the sun-dried tangerine (mandarin) peel. It is very good to clear phlegm in upper respiratory tract. It also has the benefit to help with bloating after meals, so it is often used in dessert.
  • Lian Zi – The Lotus seed. In addition to its good taste, there are three major benefits. The first is that it is good for condition with chronic diarrhea with low appetite. Second is that it can help with premature ejaculation, and spermatorrhea for man or excessive uterine bleeding and vaginal discharge for women. Third, this is good for anxiety and insomnia. It is important to note that if you have any of the issues listed above, it is recommend to get advice from doctor or a licensed diplomate of oriental medicine. However, as a food, lotus seed is a good hearty food that will make you happier.

For the main ingredients, you can use any kind of pears. I have made this remedy with various kinds of pears and all taste good and work well. Of course, my personal favorite is still the Asian pear because it is what I grew up with, but I do not see the reason to travel miles and troubles to get Asian pear.

There are two colors for the rock sugar. One is clear and one is yellow. Some say that it is better to use the yellow ones, but in my opinion, whichever you have access to would do the job. The yellow one is usually in irregular shape, so additional effort might be required to break them into smaller pieces. For those who should not eat too much sugar, this dish can be done with little or no sugar. The benefit of the sugar is to help to nourish yin and clear heat, but it can be replace with Yin Er or other ingredients listed above.

So, how much of each ingredient is needed for one pear? Normally, I go by feeling, but here is a general guideline for reference.

  • 1 pear
  • 3 to 8 clear rock sugar or 5g to 10g yellow rock sugar (I once saw a recipe of 40g rock sugar, so you can be your judge on how sweet you want this pear to be.)
  • 3g to 10g each for all other ingredients. Usually I don’t put in too many of these as pear should be the main part of this dish. However, you can also make it in a way that pear is just one of the ingredients.

Here are the steps to make steam pears with rock sugar:

  1. Skin the pear. Cut the top of the pear off, and dig out the seeds. Save the top part as it will serve as the lid in the next step.
  2. Put the bottom part of the pear in a bowl. Then place rock sugar and other smaller ingredients such as gou qi berries or chen pi in the whole at the center, and place the top part of the pear back. Place the rest of the ingredients if there is any at the side of the pear. (note: you can use toothpick to hold this two pieces of pear together.)
  3. Place the bowl with pear in a steamer and steam for 8 to 15 minutes. It is ready when you see the color of pear is slightly transparent.

For those who don’t have the time dig out the seed or want to make more pears at a time without many bowls.You can slide and dice the pears up as how you want it to be served, and place all ingredients together in a big bowl or deep plate. Then follow step 3 to steam the pears. I cook it this way all the time because it is quicker to prepare and I always make it for my whole family when I need to make this dish. If I make too much, I just put the extra in the refrigerator and serve it at room temperature or warm the next day or later in the week. Some say that it actually taste better after being in the refrigerator overnight.

This dish can be served anytime throughout the day. For those who is coughing, it is a good idea to eat the whole pear and drink the soup that is generated in the cooking process. For those who are using this for its prevention purpose, half is good enough, and I would still recommend drinking the soup especially for those who use additional ingredients.

Alright, this is enough introduction about this steam pear with rock sugar. You can explore your own way of making this dish as it is very easy to make and can be turned into many different interesting dishes.

32 Comments on “Steamed Pear with Rock Sugar – home remedy for cough & sore throat

  1. If I don’t have rock sugar can I use regular sugar? Will it achieve the same effect for cough relief?

    • uncooked pear won’t help much with cough, but of course you can give that a try.

    • Hi Rose, this is done by steam. It means that under normal condition, the boiling temperature for water is 100 °C (212 °F). It is something you can see when you see air bubbles coming our from the bottom of the pot which becomes steam when reaching air. You should put a steamer on the top of the pot once the the water starts to boil. Let the pear steam for 8 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the pear and your preference of the taste.

  2. HI:

    I using for dry cough with no phelgm -unproductive.
    I have Bai mu er, did you said to mix that with pear instead of using sugar?
    Should I use Bai mu er by itself?
    In cooking the pear, does that change the property to neutral since fresh pear is cool in properties? I notices that cold food will trigger dry cough worst.

    Mike Ng

    • Hi Mike,

      You can add Bai Mu Er (Yin Er) in addition to the basic ingredients (pear + rock sugar). Please remember to wash Bai Mu Er and soak it in water and cut it into smaller pieces before adding to the dish. Of course, you can also just cook Bai Mu Er by itself, and it should have some positive effects with dry cough in general. If you are just cooking Bai Mu Er, I would recommend just boil it in water as cooking soup, and add honey when it is cooked. I normally prepare my Bai Mu Er in slow cooker and let it cook the whole night when I am sleeping.

      Pear has the property of cool, and steaming pear does not change this property. However, cool in property and the cold in temperature are different ideas. Of course, sometimes they are very similar, but in this case, you can consider them as different. Since I can’t see you in person, so I can not tell you if pear is okay or not okay for you. In general, steam pear should be okay if you eat it while it is still hot or warm.


    • You don’t need to add water to the bowel, but of course, you need to add water to the steamer.

    • Well, of course you can boil it, but that would not be called steamed pear with rock sugar. I have try to boiling it before to see how that taste and feel. I still like the taste from steaming, and I feel steaming works better for your sore throat and cough.

  3. Can u cook the pear in the pressure cooker.
    I use a pressure cooker all the time for my other foods

    • Yes, but they are cooked very quickly in a steamer or normal pot, so you might overcook them in a pressure cooker.

    • I am not sure about the use of microwave oven because I don’t own one and I can’t test it out, but I assume if you know how to steam anything in the microwave oven, you can give it a try. Good luck!

  4. We went to San francisco Chinatown for all three ingredients – asian pears, the rock sugar, and the mandarin peel.
    We dont own a steamer but DIYed it by using a wide mouth stock pot of a contraption out of it by stacking a flat plate over a pan of water and letting the bowl of pears sit on the plate while steaming. then covered it !
    this way the rock sugar melts a bit slower so it has taken over 15 minutes to completely steam down the rock sugar. Waiting for the results but looking and tasting good !

  5. Hi i tried but the steaming only end up with very little water. Perharps like one small table spoon? Is it right or do i need to add some water in?

    • Hi Jess, I am not sure how your setup is, but as long as the pear is cook, it is okay. No need to add water.

      • I m facing the same thing as well. The liquid is just like the melting of the rock sugar. It don look lik the 1 in the pic

        • Hi Sallee,

          Different types of pears at different season contains different level of water in them. And the strength of the steam matters also. I find that stronger steam tend to leave more water in with the pear. However, the key point from this dish is to make sure that the pear is fully cooked through. Or, you can try cut the pears in pieces, it will be easier to steam them fully that way.

  6. Is it OK to use steam pear plus rock sugar plus goji berry for pregnant ladies?

    • Hi Rita, most likely okay for most cases, but please check with your herbalist locally.

  7. Hi Rose, do we need to put water into the bowl with the pear?

    • Hi Cynthia, I am Jack, not Rose.

      The answer to your question is no. You do not need to put water into the bowl with the pear.

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