Comforted by Soup

Jan 19, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Alicia Lieu, Food Fun, How I Met My Dinner

by Alicia Lieu

Coupon for Reedley Sandwich Shop at the end of this article.

Soup is considered a comfort food for a reason. It is a great way to combat the cold in winter and a great way to combat a cold. Why is it that when I’m sick, I long for my mother’s chicken soup? Is it a myth that chicken soup helps cure your cold? In 2007, the New York Times cited two studies that showed that chicken soup has more than just a placebo effect and does, in fact, reduce cold symptoms, but it would be better not to discuss the unappetizing details of it here.

Warhol, campbell, soup, label, target, ad

Instead, let us discuss soup’s place in popular culture. In the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld, Jerry chooses bisque over a girl. And if it weren’t for the show Talk Soup, Greg Kinnear might not be as recognized as he is today. Campbell’s soup recently paid tribute to Andy Warhol with the printing of his art on their labels. And who could forget the picture book Stone Soup, which made quite an impression on me as a child. I still remember the moral of the story to this day. The idea that extraordinary things can happen when people work together. With each person contributing just a bit to the pot, people can end up with more than what they gave.

The Chinese have a tradition called Hot Pot, which starts with a base of either water or flavored broth in a pot over a flame at the table. An array of thinly sliced raw meats and vegetables, noodles, and dumplings are set out at the table, along with a variety of dipping sauces. Each person chooses what they want cooked in the pot and at the end of it all, a delicious soup has been created at the table. The Japanese version of Hot Pot is called Shabu-shabu.

New England Clam Chowder has its origin built into its name and although I’m currently living near the New England area, the two New England clam chowders I favor are actually out in California. The award winning chowder from Splash Café in Pismo Beach and the dairy free chowder from Barbara’s Fish Trap in Half Moon Bay. San Francisco also creates a stir in soup presentation with their clam chowder served in sourdough bowls, which has been a signature dish since 1849. Another signature San Francisco dish is Cioppino, an Italian-American stew typically comprised of a combination of Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish.

Since moving to New York, there are a couple of soups that I have taken comfort in. I have taken a liking to Matzo Ball soup which is always available at the local diner. I was also introduced to Ajiaco, a hearty chicken soup from Bogota, Colombia that uses three different types of potato to thicken it. Garnished with cream and capers, corn on the cob and avocado, this dish is absolutely delicious and satisfying. I have not yet had enough courage to attempt making either of these soups but for now, I don’t have a need to. Thank goodness.

Among the collection in this article are two special recipes: my mother’s Pork Sparerib and Daikon soup and my college classmate’s Chicken Pho. Greg Dao and I used to take turns hosting dinners during college and he now has his own catering business in the Los Angeles area called Veck’s Saigon Street Food, which serves authentic street food from Saigon. Southeast Asian meets West Coast love. Veck’s Saigon Street Food can be found on Facebook.

Hot and Sour Soup

1/2 cup pork, shredded
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp cooking wine
1/3 lb tofu (firm) cut into thin strips
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups water

Hot and Sour Soup

1/4 cup Chinese black mushrooms, julienned
1/4 cup wood ears, shredded, julienned
1/4 cup bamboo shoots, julienned
3 tbsp cornstarch
5 tbsp water
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp vinegar
1/3 tsp pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
Optional garnish: minced cilantro, ginger, and green onion


1. Marinade the pork in 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp cornstarch, 1 tsp cooking wine. Set aside.
2. Bring chicken broth and water to a boil. Add tofu and marinated pork, stir to separate.
3. Mix together the 3 tbsp cornstarch and 4 tbsp water and add to the soup to thicken.
4. Return to a boil and slowly pour in the beaten eggs and stir. Turn the heat off.
5. Add the 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp vinegar, 1/3 tsp pepper, and 1 tsp sesame oil.
6. Serve with optional garnish. Serves 4.

Pork Sparerib and Daikon Soup

1/2 lb pork spareribs, cut across the bone into 2-inch sections, then separated into individual ribs
2 quarts water, additional water for initial blanching
1 lb daikon, cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces

Pork, spare rib, soup, daikon, white radish

4 stalks green onion
2 inch knob of fresh ginger, sliced
1/4 cup sake
salt to taste

1. Place spareribs into a pot with enough water to cover the ribs. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes until the proteins form at the surface.
2. Remove from heat. Discard the water and thoroughly rinse the spareribs.
3. Return the spareribs to the pot and add 2 quarts of water, green onion, ginger, and sake. Simmer for a minimum of 45 minutes, up to 1.5 hours for a light colored broth.
4. Add the daikon for the last 8-10 minutes of simmering, or until desired tenderness is reached. Salt to taste.

Splash Café Clam Chowder as posted on

3 8 oz bottles of clam juice 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced 3 Tbsp of butter 2 cups onions, chopped 1 ¼ cups celery, chopped w/ leaves ½ cup of parsley, chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 bay leaf ¼ cup flour 6 6 ½ oz cans chopped clams, drained w/ juice reserved 1 ¼ cup heavy cream Salt, pepper & hot sauce to taste Bring bottled clam juice and potatoes to boil in heavy large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, parsley, garlic and bay leaf and sauté until vegetables soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes (do not allow flour to brown). Gradually whisk in reserved juices from clams. Add potato mixture, clams,& cream. Simmer chowder 5 minutes to blend flavors, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt, pepper & hot sauce

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

2 chickens
2-3 lbs chicken bones
3-4 medium onions
ginger about the size of your hand


1 handful star anise
1 handful salt
1/2 bottle fish sauce
1 chunk of rock sugar, the size of half your thumb
rice noodles, fresh or dried

Thai basil
bean sprouts
thinly sliced: cilantro, green onion, onion

1. Blanch the chicken bones in boiling water for about 5 -10 min. Discard water, rinse thoroughly. Place the bones into a large stock pot.
2. Separate the dark meat from the white meat of the two chickens. Wash the chicken really well and place in stock pot, along with neck and liver and gizzards.
3. Peel and cut onions in half, crosswise, not along the stem and blacken both sides of each half over an open flame. Place into stock pot. Be sure to work in a well ventilated area.
4. Wash and peel the ginger, then char over an open flame. Place into stock pot.
5. Add a handful of salt, half a bottle of fish sauce, anise, rock sugar, fill pot with cold water. It has to be cold or else water may get cloudy. Bring pot to a slow boil, skimming off scum and fat as it cooks. Don’t let it boil hard because the soup may become cloudy.
6. After about an hour, while the white meat is still moist and tender (internal temperature of roughly 150 degrees), remove the white meat from the pot. Take the dark meat out about 15 min after the white meat.
7. Let the chicken rest and cool before removing the bones and slicing the meat. Return the bones back into the simmering soup pot. Let the soup simmer for another hour.
8. To serve, blanch each serving of fresh rice noodles in boiling water for 30 seconds and add to individual soup bowls. If using dried rice noodles, soak first in water until pliable, and then blanch for 30 seconds. Garnish as desired. Dip meat in Nuoc Cham (recipe below). Enjoy!

Nuoc Cham dipping sauce:

3 tablespoons lime juice 2 tablespoons sugar ½ cup water 2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced

You can find more food articles by Alicia and other KRL contributors in our Food Fun section!

Print this coupon and take to the Reedley Sandwich Shop & treat yourself to the best clam chowder in town:

Alicia Lieu grew up in Cupertino, California. She has Master’s Degree in Music Composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Bachelor of Art from UC Santa Barbara. A New Yorker with the heart of a Californian, she currently resides in Queens, NY and blogs about food in Jackson Heights.


  1. Great work.

  2. I love hot and sour soup!!! A real treat in the cold weather!!! And eating that soup was my first encounter with ‘wood ears’ and they are delicious and kind of sour, my favorite flavor sense. Nicely written article!!!


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