Soup is a warming staple the world over – but who knew there were so many fine flavours? The ten below are our picks for the best soups around the globe:
- Related article: Top 10 destination meals
Beef noodle soup for breakfast? Once you have tasted a good pho, you will crave it for lunch and
dinner, too. Pho is practically the national dish of Vietnam, though its
genesis is relatively recent. In the early 20th Century the colonising French
introduced beef stock to local cooks, who then threw in some chillies, fish
sauce, spices and rice noodles to give it a local twist. The dish originates
from the country’s north and is now widespread, though Hanoi is still the focal point. Every morning,
street-side stands and no-frills restaurants go into beef-slicing,
broth-boiling overdrive, producing bowl after bowl of Asian ambrosia for the
Locro de Papas, Ecuador
You need something to warm your cockles in the Ecuadorian Andes: villages
teeter at breath-stealing altitudes and nights can be extremely cold. Given
this land is the home of the potato, it is no surprise the traditional hot
belly-filler in these parts is hearty locro
de papas – potato soup. The Spanish conquistadores
first came across it in the 1560s, and its popularity has not waned since. Variants
exist (there are always garlic and hot
peppers, often cheese and avocado, and sometimes beef or guinea pig), but after
a day hiking up volcanoes, a generous dollop of any kind is more than welcome.
The first rule of botany states that the country with the most variants of a
particular species is probably where that species originated. Translate this to
cuisine and Ukraine is the top contender for the homeland of borscht. Although
the eye-poppingly purple beetroot soup is slurped across Eastern Europe –
filling tummies in Poland, Russia, Lithuania and beyond – it is in Ukraine that you will find the greatest glut
of recipes, which differ from Kiev to Lviv to Odessa. It always looks utterly
fabulous, though the girlie colouring is offset by a manly accompaniment of pampushky (fried doughnuts), which turn
this shrinking violet into a real meal.
Obe Ata, Nigeria
Locals call it a pick-me-up — a medicinal dish to reinvigorate those who are feeling
under the weather. The uninitiated might call it hell-in-a-ladle. It does not necessarily taste bad; it is just like eating Satan’s pitchfork, fresh from the
furnace. Essentially Nigeria’s national
dish, obe ata (pepper soup) is a
fiery beast, especially if Scotch Bonnet chillies are in the mix. It can also
have some unusual ingredients, including tripe, dried fish and the whole head
of a goat. But if you can brave a bowl on the streets of Lagos, know that you are experiencing the real
taste of West Africa.
There is something fishy going on
in Ghent. Inventor of the Flemish seafood soup, waterzooi, this river-port city now seems to be using chicken in
the dish. This preference for poultry allegedly occurred when Ghent’s waterways
became polluted, killing off the recipe’s main ingredient. Thankfully, today you can
still find the original fish version (often made with pike, carp or bass) in
the narrow medieval streets of the Patershol quarter. Here restaurants cook up
the soup with various vegetables and thicken it with egg yolks and cream. Hunks
of bread are provided for dunking, and a Belgian beer is near-obligatory for
washing it down.
Cullen Skink, Scotland
First cooked up in Morayshire on Scotland’s northeast
coast, in the comely village of Cullen, this irresistibly-named soup used to
sustain the sailors of the Moray Firth – back when fish were both abundant and
a fair bit cheaper than the traditional beef base. Its ingredients are simple yet
simply superb: the finest locally-smoked Finnan haddock, the best Buchan potatoes,
plus onions and cream. And although the dish has spread beyond Cullen’s harbour, for a taste of
skink at its most authentic, try it at the 18th-century Seafield Hotel.
Trinidad itself is a bit of a soup.
Here, African, Indian, Spanish, French, Chinese and Native American influences
are stirred together, and simmered under the hot Caribbean sun to make a tasty,
addictive treat of an island, best washed down with a slug of Black Label rum.
But one dish prevails out of this cultural cook-up: callaloo. A rich green gloop made from fresh dasheen leaves and
pureed okra, perhaps with coconut and delicious with chunks of crab, its
flavours are as zingy as a Trinidadian street party. Hunt out a simple eatery,
order callaloo and foo-foo (pounded
plantains), and melt into the mix.
In the kitchens of New England, clam chowder (or chowda, in Bostonian)
is a very serious business. So serious, in fact, that a law was almost passed
in the 1930s to ban tomatoes from its mollusc mix. You see, tomatoes mean
Manhattan chowder – a New Yorker fad and literally a different kettle of fish.
Threaten this seafood soup with fruit in New England and you might as well
declare your support for the Yankees. No, from Massachusetts to Maine, chowder
is made with cream. Period. It can be very good, too. And if it is not, just do
not ask for ketchup. Try a range of
soup varieties at Newport Rhode Island’s Great Chowder Cook-Off, held every June.
It is a poor man’s supper – but it tastes so good. For the hard-up labourers toiling in the Andalucían fields, gazpacho was a way to make
something of almost nothing: a stale crust of bread softened by garlic, vinegar
and a slosh of olive oil. But from its humble roots, gazpacho (perhaps drawn
from the Arabic “caspa”, meaning fragments) has become a dish of
kings. During the stultifying Andalucían summer, when the tomatoes and peppers
are at their very ripest and when all you can face eating is something
refreshing and cool, gazpacho is just the dish to tantalise torpid tastebuds.
Soup is traditionally a starter, right? But begin your dinner with a bowl of ajiaco santafereño and you will not be
eating again for a while. This dense Colombian super-fuel food combines three
different types of potato – yellow papas criollas for thickening, plus
waxy red sabaneras and squishier white pastusa – infused with handfuls of gausca, an aromatic herb. And that is just how the native
Chibcha people left it. Subsequently the Spanish rocked up, liked what they
tasted but added some protein (chicken) and a side of cream to concoct the
belly-warmer now beloved across Bogotá and beyond. In Bogotá try the Sopas
de Mamá y Postres de la Abuela restaurant chain.
The article 'Soups to sip around the globe' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.