Around the World in Seven Soups
Did you know that records of the first types of soups date back to 6,000 BC? And that the main ingredient is believed to be hippopotamus? Strange but apparently true. Every culture in the world has its own soup. Some are thick, some are thin, some are spicy, some are served with a side dish, but all are a much-loved comfort food. Here’s a quick tour of the globe, bowl by bowl.
Borscht – Eastern Europe
Originally Ukrainian but also a popular dish in Russia, Poland and Lithuania cuisine, borscht is a hearty, hot soup made with beetroot that gives it a gorgeous burgundy red colour and sweetness. Depending on location, borscht recipes include a variety of other vegetables, spices and condiments served at the table. It can be totally vegetarian or made with beef broth and tender braised beef pieces in the soup, which is also very common.
Bouillabaisse – France
Bouillabaisse had fairly humble beginnings as a soup cooked by fishermen in Marseilles, Provence. Fish considered too small for market were boiled in a cauldron on the beach with shellfish, vegetables, tomatoes, garlic and saffron. and spices. The dish has been cooked for centuries and originally Bouillabaisse would be served in two parts. First, the broth accompanied by bread and a spiced garlic sauce called a Rouille, followed by the fish. Today it’s more common to eat the dish as a whole, making it a cross between a soup and a stew.
Minestrone – Italy
Minestrone is a thick vegetable/bean soup, usually with the addition of pasta. It has a long history dating back to pre-Roman days, and it used to be made primarily with leftovers by poor families looking to stretch their food resources. It's considered a part of la cucina povera, or poor kitchen. It evolved over the years, as any good recipe does, reflecting the economies and eating habits of the people making it.
Pho – Vietnam
Pho is the noodle soup that has become synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine. Pho refers to the noodles - flat, long rice noodles --not the soup itself, although it is commonly associated with the dish as a unit. The two main types of soup are pho bo, which is made with beef broth, and pho ga, made with chicken broth. If you ask for just pho in Vietnam, it'll commonly be understood as Pho Bo. A hearty dish, pho is often eaten for breakfast, usually outside of the house at market stands or stalls. And that tricky pronunciation? It’s “fuh” not “faux”
Tom Yum – Thailand
Tom Yum is the most well-known and popular soup of Thailand, often sold and eaten on the street. It’s a simple hot and sour broth with fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, shallots, lime juice, fish sauce, tamarind and chillies. In Thailand, tom yum is usually made with prawns (tom yum goong), chicken (tom yum gai), fish (tom yum pla), or mixed seafood (tom yum talay or tom yum po taek) and mushrooms - usually straw or oyster mushrooms. The soup is often topped with generous sprinkling of fresh chopped coriander leaves.
Miso Soup – Japan
Miso soup is that salty, savoury broth, dotted with green scallions and silky tofu, served at most Japanese restaurants before the sushi trays arrive. At it’s most simple it is miso paste mixed with dashi broth. Japanese dashi is a broth made from kombu, a dried seaweed, and dried bonito fish flakes. Bursting with umami it gives the dish its savoury flavour and makes you crave another spoonful. The word “miso” means “fermented beans” in Japanese. Miso is nearly always made with soybeans, which are fermented using an ancient process with salt and a naturally occurring fungus. The process, which gives miso its distinct flavour, can last anytime from a few weeks to years.The longer the fermentation period, the darker and more intensely flavoured the miso, while a short fermentation will yield a sweeter and lighter miso.
Gumbo - USA
Gumbo is Louisiana in a bowl. Although ingredients might vary greatly from one cook to the next, and from one part of the state to another, a steaming bowl of fragrant gumbo is as emblematic of Louisiana as chilli is of Texas. It consists primarily of a strongly-flavoured stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable holy trinity of celery, bell peppers, and onions. The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw. Gumbo is traditionally served over rice.