US sitcom Seinfeld’s most famous episode, The Soup Nazi, proved that there are some people who would do anything for a Crab Bisque or a mulligatawny. Indian chefs may not throw about the catchphrase “No soup for you!”, but they are equally passionate about their soups.
For the soul: (top) Porcini soup is a hit with vegetarians; (above) served with baguette and rouille, the bouillabaisse is a meal by itself. Grand Hyatt, Mumbai. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint.
At The Park, New Delhi, the soups on the menu change according to the season. In summer, varieties of chilled, fruit-based soups such as mango, yoghurt and ginger, green almond and grape as well as varieties of gazpacho are popular. “Even the hot soups on the menu are much lighter in summer, and the flavours and textures get heartier as the year progresses,” says chef Bakshish Dean, director, food production, for the hotel. Currently, the Kale Channe Ka Shorba and Minestrone Genovese are the best-sellers. “There’s more to eat and less to drink in the minestrone, so its done quite well in the past month,” says Dean.
Wich Latte, a cosy cafe in south Mumbai, has a lot of takers for its soups such as Potato and Leek, Cream of Mushroom and Corn Chowder in the monsoon and winter. The soups’ popularity is probably also due to the fact that the cafe serves them in a “bread bowl”—a round of hard, hollowed out bread, which is baked fresh in-house.
Nikhil Chib of Busaba, an Asian restaurant in south Mumbai, says the Burmese national dish mohinga—rice noodles in a fish soup—is popular with patrons who have tried it once and developed a taste for it.
Chef Max Orlati, executive head chef of the Olive restaurants in Bangalore, Mumbai and New Delhi, says diners don’t often move beyond tomato or minestrone. “Even when they were not on the menu, people ask for them. So now we list them,” he says. A few years ago, he put his favourite Italian soup, passatelli—a meaty stock with parmesan and breadcrumbs—but it didn’t do too well. “If I urge people to try it then it does well,” Orlati laughs. Olive serves cold soups in summer and their best-seller in the winter is Corn Soup with Chilli Oil.
We got three chefs to share their favourite soup recipes:
Kaukswe (pronounced ‘cow-sway’)
by Nikhil Chib, Restaurateur, Busaba, Mumbai
This popular Burmese soup-like curry, served with a variety of accompaniments, is not technically a soup, but can be served as one. Chib’s grandmother grew up in Rangoon and brought this recipe back with her to India.
Meal ticket: Chib serves a thicker version of Kaukswe at his restaurant. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint.
½kg boneless chicken
10 cloves of garlic
2 inches ginger
1½ tsp turmeric powder
3 tsp red chilli powder
100g besan (gram flour)
½ litre coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
Salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
For the stock:
½kg chicken bones
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, quartered
1 inch ginger
For the accompaniments:
500g boiled rice noodles (or egg noodles)
6 tbsp each of fried garlic slivers, chopped and fried onion, chopped spring onion, chopped celery, coriander, lime wedges, chopped green chillies and chopped hard-boiled egg.
For the stock: To make a stock from the chicken bones add them to 1 litre water, with the onion, ginger, celery and carrot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour 30 minutes, till the liquid is reduced to half. Strain and keep aside.
For the soup: Put the onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor to make a paste. Add half the paste to the chicken pieces. Add turmeric and red chilli powder and keep aside. Fry the remaining onion, garlic and ginger paste in a pan until brown. Add the chicken mixture. Cook for 8-10 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and succulent.
Add half the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the coconut milk and let it simmer. Add fish sauce and salt to taste. Mix the besan with hot water to make a smooth paste. Add it slowly to the curry while stirring continuously so that no lumps are formed. This will thicken the sauce. Serve the soup in a bowl, with the noodles and accompaniments in smaller bowls. Add soup, noodles and accompaniments in individual soup bowls, according to taste.
by Sahdev Mehta, Chef de cuisine, Grand Café, Grand Hyatt Mumbai
Bouillabaisse is a traditional French seafood soup. The soup is a meal in itself because it is usually served with garlic bread smeared with rouille.
For the prawn stock:
200g prawn shells
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp aniseed
For the bouillabaisse:
40ml tomato soup
1 stick celery
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
For the rouille-topped baguette:
40g tomato paste
20g mashed potatoes
1 slice toasted bread
1 clove garlic
10 slices of baguette, or sliced bread
For the stock: Wash the prawn shells in running water. Saute the shells in the butter, add the tomato, onions, garlic, tomato paste, aniseed and water and simmer for an hour. Strain the liquid—you should get about 300ml of stock.
For the bouillabaisse: Saute the seafood with onion, tomato and celery, add the prawn stock and tomato soup and simmer for a few minutes.
For the rouille-topped baguette: Saute the garlic, oil and tomato paste for a minute or two in a pan. Blend this with the mashed potato and toasted bread in a food processor to make a smooth paste. Lightly toast the baguette (spread some butter and garlic if desired), and smear the rouille on the bread.
by Viraf Patel, Group executive chef, IEHPL (delItalia, Stone Water Grill, Smoke House Grill)
50g fresh porcini mushrooms (or 25g dried porcini mushrooms)
225g fresh button mushrooms
1 tsp butter
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp onion
¼ tsp fresh sage
1 pinch nutmeg
200ml vegetable stock
2 pinches black pepper
Salt, to taste
If you are using dried porcini, rehydrate them by soaking them in warm water for 15 minutes. Sauté the mushrooms in butter with onion and garlic and add salt, pepper, sage and nutmeg. Pour in the vegetable stock and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the stove, reserve a few of the porcini mushrooms and blend the rest of the mixture, add the cream and bring to a boil. Garnish with the porcini mushrooms.
All recipes serve 2