The World in My Soup!


The word soup always takes us back to wintry chill of an evening spent on a holiday, those rainy afternoons, or just remainder of the homemade tomatoey “maa ke hath ka soup” nurturing a bad cold. Whatever the reason, a bowl of piping hot soup is all about nostalgia, where only one word defines it, that it is “COMFORTING”.

Soup, according to the dictionary, is a liquid food derived from meat, poultry, fish or vegetables. This definition is alright as far as it goes, but there is a lot that it doesn’t tell us. Is a stock, straight from the stockpot, a soup? Is beef stew liquid enough to be called a soup? Stock and broth are very similar: water simmered with meat and/or bones, and usually some vegetables and aromatic herbs, then strained. (Though in the case of vegetable broth, meat is not used.) They’re both utilized as a base for soups, sauces and gravies. And, truth be told, some chefs use the words interchangeably.

Evidence of the existence of soup can be found as far back as about 20,000 BC. Boiling was not a common cooking technique until the invention of waterproof containers (which probably came in the form of clay vessels). Animal hides and watertight baskets of bark or reeds were used before this. To boil the water hot rocks were used.

In 1975, a Parisian named Boulanger began advertising on his shop sign that he served soups, which he called restaurants or restoratives. (Literally, the word means “fortifying”.) It was an antidote to physical exhaustion.

The word soup comes from the French soupe (“soup”, “broth”), which comes through Latin suppa (“bread soaked in broth”), from a Germanic source, from which also comes the word “sop”, a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew. Indians are more fascinated with the Chinese varieties — hot and sour, sweet corn or Manchow. But the plain dal or sambhar or thukpa also fall under the soup category.

The popularity of soups today may be due to increased nutrition consciousness, to a desire for simpler or lighter meals, or to an increased appreciation of how appetising and satisfying soups can be.

Here are a few of my top picks of noodle soups from around the world…

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1) Pho, Vietnam

Pho is to the Vietnamese what pasta is to the Italians. In cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, you’ll find locals slurping up steaming bowls of this noodle soup, every hour of every day. The dish is made of a beef or chicken broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles and a host of spices including ginger, star anise, and coriander seeds. The best part of a bowl of pho are the garnishes, which turn it into a kind of ‘build your own’ meal: Fish sauce, hoisin sauce, Thai basil, cilantro, mint, scallions, chillies, bean sprouts, and lots and lots of fresh lime.

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2) Laksa, Malaysia or Singapore

One of the most enticing things about laksa is its unmistakable bold orange colour. This curry-based noodle soup, which uses vermicelli rice noodles, usually has a coconut or tamarind (known as asem laksa) base and is utterly delicious when served with shrimp. The dish can be found across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

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3) Ramen, Japan

This flavourful bowl of soup and noodles has become so popular around the world that almost every Asian-style restaurant now has a take on it. But even when it comes to traditional ramen there are many, many variations—whether its shio (meaning ‘salt’) ramen or the shoyu (meaning ‘soy sauce’) version.

ash reshteh
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4) Ash Reshteh, Iran

This thick and hearty Persian soup is real comfort food, ideal for winter. Made from linguine-shaped reshteh noodles, khask (Persian whey like sour cream) and a variety of wholesome ingredients including spinach, lentils, chick peas, turmeric, and parsley, this vegetarian soup is brimming with flavor. The soup’s noodles are believed to bring good fortune, which is why this dish is often eaten before the Persian New Year, Norouz. Ash reshteh is incredibly common in Persian cuisine and it’s likely you’ll find people pouring out of soup cafeterias or local eateries during their lunch break, slurping up bowls of vegetable goodness.

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5) Khow suey, Burma

In Burmese cuisine, Khow suey, is a noodle dish that comes from the mountainous Shan state. It is a one-dish soup meal made of egg noodles and curried beef or chicken with coconut milk, served with a variety of contrasting condiments.

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6) Thukpa, Tibet

Thukpa is a common Tibetan noodle soup which originated in east Tibet. This healthy noodle soup originally comprises of homemade hand pulled noodles and winter vegetables.

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7) Sopa De Fideos, Mexican

A traditional Mexican tomato soup with noodles. Perfect for rainy days and whatever ails you!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Do leave your comments. Cheers!