According to one of the world’s biggest canned-soup companies, the practice of heating water, meat and vegetables goes back tens of thousands of years. Archaeologists in China found pieces of pottery they believed to be soup bowls from 20,000 BC.
Soup was an important part of early human’s diet. Putting tough meat in boiling water allowed the rendering of fats into the broth. It was an easy way to cook.
Today, we don’t eat soups simply because we’re in survival mode. We eat them because they’re delicious, from a Vietnamese pho to a Hungarian goulash to a West African peanut soup.
Of course, on a cold winter’s day, soup tastes especially good. And we’re here to introduce you to three bowls that offer a lot of stick-to-your-ribs comfort.
Look, no one is going to Pals for the soup. This place has grown its reputation by serving hefty sandwiches that are like having one and a half lunches in a single sitting.
But, darn, if you’re going to go the soup-and-sandwich route, Pals’ house soup may surprise you. If you’ve ever tried Polish-style pickle soup, you know that there’s something super comforting about this broth. This isn’t pickle soup, but there’s a healthy dose of sour in the broth, and a real blast of dill. There are many Eastern-European flavour cues here, but the pepper gives this a nice blast at the end of every slurp. It’s as if an Eastern European sour soup was used as the inspiration, but this version pushes the flavours far past the “subtle” mark.
Sure, the sandwich you order is going to be the star of the show. But, in this case, the side of soup is anything but an afterthought.
Like Pals, Hu’s Noodle Nook hasn’t been open for long. But I am a sucker for the hard sell, so, when the menu boasts that the Tan Tan is already the most popular soup on the menu, I skip past the more traditional ramen offerings and, well, do what I am told.
Unlike a traditional ramen, the Tan Tan’s broth is bright red. It’s still made with a pork base, and there’s a solid amount of ground pork in the bowl. But there are peppers swimming in there too, there is spicy sesame, and the red colour is like a warning that this soup is going to punch you in the mouth. The ground peanuts add a toasty feel to every bite.
It’s got spice, it’s got a real richness to it, and then there’s the nuttiness. Basically, there’s a lot going on. Turn it up.
Through the pandemic, Viphalay and I developed a long-distance relationship. I ordered soup, the restaurant sent soup, and we were very happy.
Why the joy? The Tom Yum Soup is a part sweet, part sour, part spicy combination of tomatoes, pepper and lemongrass. I usually order it with the chicken, but there are beef and shrimp offerings on the menu, as well.
The aroma is overwhelming. Like a fine curry, it lets you know that each spoonful will be a sinus-clearer. Package this stuff up and you’ll never need a Halls ever again. The broth is laden with mushrooms and pieces of meat, and the heat simply builds and builds, but never gets to the point where you need to tap out.
Be warned. The portion is big enough to be a meal on its own.