Mealtime medicine: Food fixes for winter ills

Image 1. The vegetable hot pot at Heiwa Shokudo.
Image 2. The hot toddy at WALK.
Image 3. Shrimp soup at Tomato Cocina Latina.
Image 4. Chili at HomeGrown.
Image 5. Rooibos tea at Waking Life.
Image 6. The Sweet Ginger smoothie at Rise ‘n Shine Café.
Image 7. Sam’s special hot sauce (far right) and the ingredients he uses to prepare it at Thai Orchid.
Photos by Max Cooper.

Welcome, crisp days and the first snow of the year, apple cider and seasonal beers. Welcome, winter squash, holiday treats and decadent meals.

Welcome, cold and flu season? Not so much.

Like it or not, the winter sniffles have descended on Asheville in recent weeks. Sick days aren’t all bad, though: They're a great excuse to let Asheville's restaurants do the cooking for you. Who knows? You might even discover a cure for that nagging cold in a local chef’s pot.

Here are a few dishes to get you started. You'll find most of them at laid-back locations with easy parking, so you can grab some take-out in your sweats and head back to bed. Get well soon.

Beyond noodle soup

Step away from the can opener. When it comes to noodle soup, you can do better than overly-salty broth and essence of aluminum can.

At Heiwa Shokudo on North Lexington Avenue, chef/owner Daisuke Sugimoto prepares many dishes with noodles in broth. But if you're looking for the dish with the maximum vegetable impact, choose one of his special hot pots, which come in vegetable and tofu, seafood, chicken, beef and dumpling varieties. Choose the broth, too: miso, spicy and vegan are all options.

Inside the hot pot (be careful; it's really hot), tofu, carrots, eggplant, sweet potatoes, broccoli and squash nestle together. Napa cabbage and bean sprouts take the place of noodles. The veggies swim in a lightly spiced broth crowned with a generous heap of freshly grated ginger.

Heiwa Shokudo, 87 N. Lexington Ave., serves lunch and dinner. Call the restaurant at 254-7761.

Grandpa's cough syrup

Before NyQuil and Sudafed, there was whiskey. It's the classic home remedy for respiratory ills. At West Asheville Lounge and Kitchen, bartender Keelan McCoy calls his bourbon-based hot toddy grandpa's cough syrup. It combines Maker's Mark bourbon with hot water, honey, nutmeg and cloves, garnished with a cinnamon stick, an extra sprinkle of nutmeg and a lemon twist. It's sweet and smooth and just strong enough to feel rather effective.

WALK, 401 Haywood Rd., opens daily with lunch, dinner and late-night service. For more information, call 505-7929.

Get fishy with it

In our time and place, we tend to think of chicken soup when we get sick. For a different comfort food, check out fish soup. It's an age-old curative from Mediterranean communities.

At Tomato Cocina Latina in the Westgate Shopping Center, choose from fish, seafood, shrimp, chicken and vegetable soups. The bowls come brimming with a paprika-flecked, lightly creamy broth, your choice of protein and still-crunchy vegetables, plus a side of rice, cilantro and chopped raw onion (another cold curative).

Tomato Cocina Latina opens Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner at 70 Westgate Parkway. Call the restaurant at 254-5046.

Work out the kinks with tea

They aren't exactly doctors, but ’60s British rockers The Kinks prescribe tea. As they say, “If you feel a bit under the weather, if you feel a little bit peeved, take granny's stand-by potion for any old cough or wheeze.”

If you've got a few kinks of your own, and you're looking to sip a steaming cup in a quiet place with lots of free parking, try Waking Life in West Asheville.

Owner Jared Rutledge recommends the mint tea (which isn't tea at all, but a blend of spearmint and peppermint leaves). For a pick-me-up, try the yerba mate, or for a vitamin-loaded fruity brew, sip on some hibiscus tea, a blend of rooibos root, hibiscus flowers and rose hips.

At 976 Haywood Rd., Waking Life opens from 7 am.m to 8 p.m. daily. Call the shop at 505-3240.

Beat the chills with chili

If you're not one to eat light when under the weather, Asheville has plenty of home-style, comfort food to fortify you for the shivers and shakes. At HomeGrown on Merrimon Avenue, choose from a rotating cast of such dishes. Biscuit-topped chicken pot pie makes appearances throughout the winter as does bean-and-beef chili.

If you're looking for something specific, call ahead at 232-4340. The menu changes daily, but certain seasonal staples often stay put.

HomeGrown, 371 Merrimon Ave., opens daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Freeze a fever

If you're burning up, you should probably stay in bed. But don't forget to eat, even if you prefer your nutrients via a straw. Dispatch a friend to one of Asheville's many smoothie purveyors, such as Rise 'n Shine Café on Merrimon Avenue. Try the Sweet Ginger: strawberries, bananas, fresh ginger and apple juice. Ginger is a common home remedy for colds,fevers and stomach aches.

Want just juice? Rise ‘n Shine also offers fresh carrot and Granny Smith apple juice. But be sure to get there before 2 p.m. The restaurant is open everyday but only for breakfast and lunch.

Rise ‘n Shine is located at 640 Merrimon Ave. Call them at 254-4122.

Sweat it out

In Thailand, you can find a spice tray on every table, explains Sam Nantasitikorn of Suwana's Thai Orchid. The downtown restaurant serves three sauces of varying levels of spiciness with every meal. But if you're really looking to kill the germs, ask for Sam's special sauce.

“It clears out everything,” he says. “You're going to be sweating like taking a shower, and the next day, the fever's gone.” Sam's sauce combines Spanish onion, spring onion, lemon grass, garlic, dried chili peppers, kaffir lime leaves, green and red Thai hot chilies, lime, a touch of habanero pepper and a dash of toasted rice powder for texture. It isn’t on the menu, and only Sam makes it. But if he's working, and you've got some time to wait for the sauce, it might just cure what ails you.

Suwana’s Thai Orchid serves lunch and dinner daily at 11 Broadway Ave. For more information, call 281-8151.

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