Five Great Asian Soups That Are Not Pho
Edwin posted today about the shikhye he bought that reminded him of the dessert at Jang Mo Gip. Any mention of Jang Mo Gip gets me craving a big, hearty bowl of seolleongtang (ox leg bone soup, pictured above). It seems like every culture has its soup made of long-simmered stock. As winter starts to close in on us, it's worth taking a culinary tour of Asia through their soups and stews. Join us as we travel to Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea.
Tonkotsu ramen - Don't think of those depressing packages on the shelf at the store, the culinary refuge of the impecunious. Tonkotsu ramen is made with pork bones that have been simmered for hours and hours to impart a milky white color and a deep, marrow-y taste to the broth. Ramen noodles are wheat noodles treated with kansui, a naturally-occurring carbonate. They're quite chewy when done right, and they match well with the very tender pork belly and vegetables that accompany the broth. Add a little shredded pickled ginger to wake it up, and make sure to order the set with the delicious tea-cooked eggs.
Where to get it: Santouka Ramen, Mitsuwa Marketplace food court, 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa; (714) 434-1101.
Niurou mian - Dark, meaty and rich, with thick bites of tender meat and vegetables and a pile of al dente noodles, this is like an inspired Asian version of Mom's beef stew. Add a little bit of shredded preserved vegetable for a little bite, and maybe a little bit of chile paste to wake it up. You'll find yourself craving this when the rain moves in.
Bún bò Huế - The second master of Vietnamese soups is completely different to its clear cousin, phở. It starts the same way as pho (and, for that matter, seollungtang), with beef bones being simmered in a long time. Sliced lean flank steak, oxtails and, if you dare, huyết (congealed pork blood, which looks like dark brown Jell-O™). Bún bò Huế is not especially spicy on its own, but if you crave a hit of capsaicin, you can doctor it up with the table salad, which will have herbs, chiles, lime wedges and bean sprouts, as well as the chile pastes on the table.
Where to get it: Ngu Binh, 14072 Magnolia St., Westminster; (714) 903-6000.
Khao soi - Wide, flat rice noodles, pork, garlic, tomatoes, bean sprouts, a little chili paste and your choice of meat, swimming in a lightly-curried coconut broth: what's not to like? Add a little bit of lime and sprinkle on some peanuts, and you've got a one-bowl dinner that will leave you full and happy.
Where to get it: Bangkok Taste, 2737 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana; (714) 532-2216.
Sundubu jjigae - While technically this isn't a soup but a stew, its spicy bite is immensely satisfying on a cold winter night. Fresh silken tofu is brought to the table in a hot stone pot with your choice of ingredients (try the clams) and a tangy, spicy broth made with a lot of gochujang (fermented bean and chile paste). Ask for an egg to crack, raw, into the soup. The boiling broth will cook the egg to a creamy consistency within just a few seconds and provide a necessary note of earthy richness to the dish. A pot of rice will be served on the side, which will help cool the fire (particularly if you ordered it "Korean spicy"), and the usual assortment of pickled panchan (side dishes) will be spread across the table to provide contrast to the palate.
Where to get it: Kaju Tofu, 8895 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove; (714) 636-2849.
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