5 things about Chinese herbal syrup Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa

Chinese herbal syrup Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa is a popular remedy for sore throat and cough. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Chinese herbal syrup Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa is a popular remedy for sore throat and cough. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Chinese herbal syrup Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa is a favourite remedy of many Singaporeans - and apparently, of American singer-songwriter Jason Mraz as well.

The two-time Grammy winner takes a cup of mint tea with the "very delicious" syrup in it during his pre-show rituals.

Here are five things about the traditional cure for sore throat and cough.

1. It's been around for longer than you think

Pei Pa Koa has its origins in the Qing Dynasty, more than 400 years ago. The mother of a provincial commander suffered from chronic cough, which was cured by a physician's concoction of 15 herbs. The commander was asked to mass produce it for other people, and Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa was created.

2. It was named for a son's love for his mother

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"Nin Jiom" means "remembrance of the mother", and from the story of its origin above came the Nin Jiom logo, which depicts a son serving his elderly mother. Now you have an affordable yet touching gift idea for Mother's Day. You're welcome.

3. Herbal syrup is big business

The Hong Kong company behind the syrup, Nin Jiom Medicine Manufactory, chalked up annual sales of almost HK$350 million (S$57.7 million) recently. The company is immune to the ebb and flow of the economy, said director and general manager Chan Yin, because "people always get a cough or sore throat regardless of whether the economy is doing well or not, so we are quite lucky in that regard".

4. The tasty syrup can be used in food and drinks

Medicine is supposed to taste bad, but no one passed that memo to the makers of Pei Pa Koa. The tasty syrup can be used in food and drinks, like at the World Gourmet Summit in 2007.

Dr Diana Tan, a foodie interviewed by The Sunday Times in 2008, said of a meal she had by chef Jeremy Leung: "I especially liked the dessert, which was a steamed pear served with ice cream. It came with pi pa gao (a Chinese herbal cough syrup) and almond cream, and the contrast of warm and cold created the most delightful sensations on my taste buds.”

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More recently, The New Paper asked bartender Louis Tan at L’Aiglon to come up with a Chinese New Year-inspired cocktail. Of his creation, which included Pei Pa Koa, TNP said: "And who knew dark rum and Pei Pa Koa would be a match made in heaven?"

5. It can be used to scare your friends

Need fake blood for Halloween? If you happen to have bottles of the syrup lying around, make-up artist Danielle Zhao has the answer. Pei Pa Koa can be used with red food colouring, corn syrup and Ribena syrup to stir up a concoction of edible fake blood with a realistic brownish-red colour and thick consistency.

dshea@sph.com.sg