i heart soup

...i really really do. i'm a soup freak. i want it any day, any time of the year. but these chilly, 50 degree temps only heighten this penchant, no, obsession. i thought about warm soup all day long today. this weather makes for such perfect soup sipping which warms my heart and my belly.

i tend to enjoy clear broths more than the rich and creamy b/c i can indulge more freely. i look for anything as simple as a homemade chicken noodle to a hearty, spicy, cumin heavy chili to something ethnic and full of interesting herbs.

so the question today is: who has your favorite soups in town? i make some pretty good ones like my chicken and white bean chili, but i'm really not doing much cooking these days. i'd also like to fool myself into thinking i can start some sort of soup diet to lose weight and the key here will be to find lots of variety to keep me on track.

so here are some of mine:

1. duck noodle soup @ kim tai - braised duck, egg noodles, greens, fried shrimp chip on top, rich, grease-laden broth. smokey duck meat strangely reminiscent of the turkey legs i love at the ren fest. i won't fool myself into thinking i can eat this one as much as i want to.

duck noodle soup from Kim Tai

fried shrimp chip on top of soup from Kim Tai

2. nam kang woon sen (B4) @ asia market - clear noodle soup with tofu, ground pork, veggies. tofu is inevitably overcooked, but the pork is tender and the broth is very flavorful. pretty healthy methinks.

3. tom kha gai @ vieng thai - hot and spicy soup w/ coconut milk, chicken, straw mushrooms and flavored with lemongrass, galangal ginger, kaffir leaves. the soup is so exceptionally balanced between savory, spicy, creamy, and coconutty and seems lighter than most versions. sooo good. okay, no way is this low-cal either.

tom kha gai from Vieng Thai

4. canh chua tom @ mai's - vietnamese hot and sour shrimp soup w/ pineapple, okra, bean sprouts. fried garlic on top. tangy, hearty and delicious although a bit greasy.

5. pho @ thien an (or pho saigon) - thien an is my first choice but if it's after 6pm or a saturday thien an is closed and pho saigon is not a bad second. i usually get pho tai w/ meatballs. if i'm feeling a bit more adventurous i'll add tendon. i love the plate of fresh bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, and jalapeno and the star of anise and vietnamese cinnamon flavors of a good pho broth. i am convinced pho is healthy. even if you know better, please don't inform me otherwise.

pho tai from Thien An

6. sopa azteca @ la mexicana - chicken broth, chicken, cubes of avocado and panela cheese, chipotle peppers, tortilla strips. quite healthy. the panela cheese makes the dish (and the inevitable series of margaritas don't hurt either).

7. tortilla soup @ el rey taqueria - definitely a meal. tons of pulled chicken (probably leftover rotisserie chicken), avocados, veggies, cheese, tortilla strips. wins the award for best takeout since they have a drive-thru and you can literally go in your pajamas.

8. hot and sour soup @ doozo dumplings - wins the award for biggest pain in the ass to get to (only open weekday lunches, located in the park shops). if you can't find a meter, parking will cost you more than your whole meal, but boy is it good. veggie dumplings and hot and sour soup. i have to admit their soup is even better than my family's. i wish i could buy buckets of this stuff. don't tell but i steal hot chili oil from the wok and roll chinese place in the same courtyard which makes it even more hot = better.

9. chicken avgolemono @ niko nikos- chicken, rice, lemon juice, diced carrots and onions in chicken broth. another healthy choice. not THAT exciting, but good wholesome stuff.

10. caldo de pollo @ taqueria la tapatia - chicken still on the bone with skin in tact, clean and clear chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, corn and diced avocado, onions, cilantro, rice on the side. wins the award for good healthy choice at 2 am after a night of drinking.

caldo de pollo from La Tapatia

11. chicken congee @ tan tan - rice porridge with pulled chicken and fresh julienned ginger. comfort food at its healthiest. get someone to pick up some of this stuff for you the next time you are sick. the ginger does wonders.

12. soon tofu soup @ tofu village - it is impossible to resist that bubbling hot, fiery red, fluffy soft tofu soup. crack a raw egg into it and let it slowly poach. the problem here is that it's also impossible to resist the galbi and free banchan which quickly makes any visit here more of a gorge fest than a small humble and comforting meal. here's a photo of the soon tofu soup in LA which looks identical to tofu village's even down to the bowl.

soon tofu soup from Beverly Soon Tofu (LA)

13. mushroom cappuccino @ VOICE - crimini, portabello, shitake mushrooms, truffle oil, porcini powder, white wine, chicken stock and lots and lots of cream - 3 cups exactly, i have the recipe- PLUS a 1/2 cup of whipping cream for the topping. delish? yes.

14. crab bisque @ mardi gras grill - i think all bisques are pretty effing good. i mean, how can they not be with all the heavy cream that goes into it?? i think the crab bisque here is exceptional even if it's thick enough to be a sauce. the warm fluffy white rice on the side is a must for me to use to help balance out the fat.

15. soup buffet @ sweet tomatoes - soup buffet! AYCE soup! my fav here is the black bean soup which you can garnish with all the sour cream and green onions you want from the tater bar. turkey chili is good too and low-cal (or so they say) w/o the AYCE shredded cheddar option.

okay, now your turn to share. i'm hardly in love with any local gumbos or chowders and still haven't found the perfect pozole yet. what do you suggest?


Shannon said...

Try the Tom Ka at Nidda Thai. They have a few really good items, and some ok ones. But the soup I think is better than Vieng. They know me in there for getting the soup all the time.

Unknown said...

I think that Kenny & Ziggy's makes a pretty mean Matzo Ball Soup for all that ails ya and warms you up when cold.
I agree with your Niko Niko choice...very good.
Thanks for all of the great photos and suggestions!!!

Anonymous said...

1. The lobster bisque @ Pesce. A great lobster stock base and not too creamy (well almost) & plenty of lobster for textural balance.
2. The black bean soup @.....The Black Labrador. Just a wee dollop of sour cream.
3. The chicken noodle soup @ Latina Cafe on Fairview. A principly Cuban restaurant that serves it as a lunch special on Wednsday.
4.The crab or crawfish bisque @ Mardis Gras on Durham. I'm omitting gumbos(that's a whole other list), but their bisque has a roux dark enough to blacktop your driveway and a neccesary bowl of rice to the side for balance.

HeaAndrews said...

I'm new to Chowhounds, but wanted to add that I went to Beavers three weeks ago and the special was smoked mackerel chowder. It was excellent and would highly recommend it. I wish they would add it to the menu permanently!


Anonymous said...

I <3 soup too!

-Hu Tieu @ Pho Hu Tieu Nam Vang (1517 Gears Rd)
- Hu Tieu @ Phanh Ky (11602 Bellaire)
-Pho ga kho (dry) @ Pho Thai Binh Duong (11528 Bellaire)
-Boat noodle @ Vieng Thai
-Canh chua ca @ Bodard Bistro

Anonymous said...

You covered my favorites - duck pho, el rey chicken soup, asian market soup, and the extravagent voice "soup", or rather, dessert depending on your point of view. The rassam at updipi is pretty good too. as you know, i'm still looking for an excellent pho, but I'm hoping Katherine's Pho Huy she wrote about this week is the key. I'm headed there this wkend...

neverfull said...

@shannon- okay, if *you* say the tom kha at nidda is better than vieng then i'm going there soon! so much closer to my house too. the tom kha is good at asia market too, but it is richer b/c they put more coconut milk in it.

@jody- i still haven't made it to K&Z's. i lived in manhattan for 3 yrs and can't imagine that it is anywhere as good as the authentic jewish delis there. but i've heard good things and your rec warrants a visit.

@fulmer- lobster bisque *is* yum at pesce. i like the puff pastry on top and the half tail of meat in it. also, do you remember that chowder we had there with a fried soft shell in it? soup with fried shit in it is so good! mmm...good memories. crab bisque from mardi gras grill is on my list :)

@heaandrews- welcome to the group. we are planning a taco truck crawl for early jan and i'd love to do this soup potluck/smackdown before the end of the year. please come out and meet us. thanks for the smoked mackerel chowder rec. i love JJ and all he does over at beavers.

@dawn57 - i have to say that i'm not a fan of wider rice noodles (hu tieu) in my soup. i find them so hard to eat because they slip off my spoon and just don't make sense to me. but a good soup is all about the broth, right? thanks for the recs. i dig the boat noodle and tom kha noodle soups at vieng thai too.

@tatiana- please report back on your pho-scursion. i love KSG's recs but you've spent so much time in asia that if you are a fan too, i'll go out there pronto.

neverfull said...

@dawn57 - i meant the tom yum (not tom kha) noodle soup at vieng.

Anonymous said...

1. I contend that Tapatia serves an even better caldo de res (beef) over the caldo de pollo. But my comfort comes from the weekend only posole (pork and hominy soup).

2. And since you bring up congee as a soup (ie, chao, lugao, burbur, jook, rice porridge), I prefer the century egg version at Hong Kong Food Street. But for a bit of adventure, get the Chao Huyet at Kim Son. It should be the only item on the menu with no English translation. :). Well, I like it.

3. I hate to admit it, but I haven't had a decent gazpacho in Houston yet.

Anonymous said...

Oops, not Kim Son. Mai's. It's at Mai's.

Anonymous said...

My personal favs...

Hugo's - oxtail soup (usually only in winter)- amazing rich, hearty broth

Thien An- I love the pho too!

Xiong's Cafe - Spicy Beef Noodle Soup
(actually any of the noodle soups really)...

KL Malaysian- the curry laksa/mee is to die for

Still have yet to find a perfect bowl of ramen in Houston...

ytee said...

It's been a few years since I've been - but the Caldo de Plugo at La Sinaloense in Baytown was one of the most comforting soups I've ever eaten. The Caldo de Mariscos at El Huetamo (# something - not sure) on Aldine Westfield is not bad - but Sinaloense generally serves the freshest seafood I've tasted in the Houston area - and there's not much better than mega-fresh octopus soup in my book.

ytee said...

Pulpo - I meant PULPO of course

Brent said...

The special won ton noodle soup at the hong kong chef in Bellaire is great. It is their "special" wonton soup with angel hair pasta. Really more than you can eat but they will gladly put in a to go container when you give up.

Jonny said...

jenny you are giving me the mushroom cappuccino recipe immediately. it's the best soup i've ever had.

neverfull said...

@jonny- enjoy!

mushroom soup "cappucino"
chef michael kramer
(copied from downtown magazine fall 2008 issue)

3T veg oil
2 large onions, 1/2" dice
3# mushrooms and scraps (crimini, portabello, shitake)
3T garlic chopped
2c white wine
chicken stock
3c cream
salt and pepper

1. in a large saucepot over med heat, heat oil until hot.
2. add onions and lightly caramelize. next add mushroom scraps and sweat thoroughly, about 5 mins. add garlic and cook for another 2 mins, then add white wine.
3. reduce wine by 75% and add enough chicken stock to cover mixture by about 1/2". bring to a simmer for 15 mins. add cream and simmer another 5 mins.
4. in small batches, blend soup with blender or hand blender. strain through medium strainer.

truffle foam:
2T truffle oil
1/2c whipping cream
1tsp kosher salt
porcini powder

for truffle foam, beat truffle oil and cold whipping cream until peaks are still. season with salt. place dollop of cream on top of hot soup. sprinkle with porcini powder.

no info on yield.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, I definitely can't do soup just any day. I usually only eat soup if I'm sick or it's terribly cold outside.

And neither of those things will be happening any time soon - first because I'm battling germs with some vitamins and secondly it's 86 degrees right now!

steve said...

I have lots of favorites, some listed here or in comments, but hands down, number 1:

Hungarian Goulash at Phoenicia supermarket.

Anonymous said...

Try the lentil soup at Istanbul in the Village. Truly terrific anytime of the year!

Anonymous said...

Mushroom soup at Bice

neverfull said...

dern, bice is gone. well, the one in houston is anyway.

Unknown said...

pozole - Have you tried the one at Farrago's? Sunday brunch. If you go, go right when they open, before the craziness of the crowds happens.

find here said...

Gorgeous and pretty photos.

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