Asian soup

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Asian soups
Instant miso soup.jpg
A bowl of miso soup
Type Soup
Cookbook:Asian soups  Asian soups

Asian soups are soups traditionally prepared and consumed in the cultures of Asia. Such soups are usually based solely on broths and lacking in dairy products such as milk or cream. Thickening for the soups usually consists of refined starches from corn or sweet potatoes.

Asian soups are generally categorized as either savoury or sweet. The quality of a savoury soup is determined mainly by its fragrance and umami or "xian" flavour, as well as, to a lesser extent, its mouthfeel. Sweet soups such as tong sui are enjoyed for their aroma, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. Many soups are eaten and drunk as much for their flavour as for their health benefits and touted for their purported revitalizing or invigorating effects.

Traditional soup bases[edit]

Since many Asian soups are eaten as one of the main dishes in a meal or in some cases served straight with little adornment, particular attention is paid to the soups' stocks. In the case of some soups, the stock ingredients become part of the soup.


A bowl of wonton noodle soup

There are several basic traditional soup stocks in Chinese cuisine:[1]

  • Chicken (T: 雞湯, S: 鸡汤): The basic broth used in creating most Chinese soups. The basic broth is sometimes fortified with liquorice root, wolfberry, and other Chinese herbs.
  • Pork broth (T: 瘦肉湯, S: 瘦肉汤): Lean pork is used most often as the soup base for long-simmered Chinese soups, called 老火湯 in Cantonese. This soup base is often simmered over low heat for several hours with other roots, dried herbs, vegetables, and edible fungi like shiitake mushroom, white fungus, or wood ear.[2] The Cantonese are especially known for their long-simmered Chinese soups, as they often pair ingredients under Chinese Medicine concepts to enhance health-benefiting functions of the soup.
  • White broth (T: 白湯, S: 白汤): Made from lightly blanched pork bones that have been vigorously boiled for several hours, creating a white milky broth. This broth has a rich mouthfeel, and is often used in ramen soups.
  • Fish broth (T: 魚湯, S: 鱼汤): Made from fish that have been fried and boiled for several hours, creating a white milky broth. This broth has a rich feel, and sweet umami taste.
  • Coarse broth (T: 毛湯, S: 毛汤): A broth made using the bones, meat offcuts, or skin of either pork, duck, or chicken. A commonly broth used for simple flavouring of common dishes.
  • Refined broth/stocks:
    • Superior broth (T: 上湯, S: 上汤): A dark tan broth made from Jinhua ham, pork, and chicken that has been slowly simmered to finish. This rich and umami broth is used in the creation of many expensive soups such as shark fin soup or wonton soup.
    • Clarified broth (T: 吊湯, S: 吊汤): A filtered white broth made through vigorous boiling of bones and chicken that has been clarified using pureed or finely minced chicken breast meat. Repeating the clarification and infusion process with more minced chicken produces a double clarified broth (T: 雙吊湯, S: 双吊汤). The white broth can also be clarifed using egg white or blood but taste will not be optimal.[3] Used in the Sichuan dish, Kaishui baicai (開水白菜, lit. Cabbage in boiled water).[4]

Ingredients used in making Chinese stocks can be recooked again to produce a thinner broth with less intense flavours, known as ertang (二湯, Pinyin:èr tāng, lit. second soup).


Main article: Dashi

Collectively known as dashi, most Japanese soup bases are flavoured primarily with kombu (kelp) and shavings from dried skipjack tuna (katsuobushi). They are soaked or simmered to release the umami flavours of the shavings, and the resulting broth is strained. Mirin is occasionally added to the broth to further enhance the taste of the broth.

  • Kelp: Kelp (kombu) is soaked in lukewarm water or simmered to yield a light broth.
  • Niboshi: made by soaking or boiling dried sardines (niboshi) in water. The heads and entrails are usually pinched off prior to soaking, to prevent bitterness.
  • Shiitake dashi: made by soaking dried shiitake mushrooms in water.


A bowl of seolleongtang
  • Seolleongtang (설렁탕) is a milky white thin soup made from slowly boiled oxtail and bones. It is believed to have restorative qualities.
  • Galbitang (갈비탕) is made from boiled beef ribs (갈비).


The soup bases are used to cook a large variety of soups

American Chinese cuisine[edit]

In American-Chinese restaurants some of the most popular soups are: egg drop soup, hot and sour soup, wonton soup, and chicken with corn soup.


  • Yukgaejang (육개장) is a spicy red soup made with beef strips, red pepper, and assorted vegetables (usually green and white onions, bean sprouts, among others); many variations include egg and rice or cellophane noodles dropped into the soup, and sometimes shrimp and other pieces of seafood. Of the spicy Korean soups, 육개장 is very popular among both Koreans and non-Koreans.
  • Miyeok guk (미역국) is a soup made from boiled sliced beef and miyeok (popularized as wakame in Japanese). It is believed to be good for the blood vessels and heart. Koreans traditionally eat this for birthday celebrations, or when a woman gives birth to a child.
  • Tteok guk (떡국) is a soup made with slices of rice cake. The base is usually beef or anchovy (멸치) stock along with the rice cake slices, and most variations also have sliced green onions, eggs dropped into the soup, and are usually served with strips or pieces of laver (김; many variations will be baked or fried and salted/seasoned). 떡국 is traditionally served on the lunar New Year, but is a favourite during the colder months.
  • Doenjang (된장) is a bean paste soup base. Usually served with at least tofu and green onions, many variations include other ingredients (including various meats or fishes but usually not egg, potatoes, and other vegetables). Miso is a less-concentrated, much simpler version of 된장.
  • Sundubu jjigae (순두부 찌개) is a spicy red stew (not so much a soup) very similar in ingredients and preparation to 육개장, but has dropped tofu (i.e. not the firm kind, but uncurdled tofu, called sundubu in Korean) as a primary ingredient in addition to everything else, and will tend to favour seafood ingredients more heavily than meats. Usually served scalding hot and with the balance in favour of ingredients over fluid, 순두부 찌개 is also different from 육개장 in that the egg yolk is often placed in the soup intact (as opposed to the usual dropped egg technique in which the egg white and the egg yolk are broken up within the soup and thus cook within the soup in pieces, not as a single piece).


  • Kwāti is a mixed soup of nine types of sprouted beans -- black gram, green gram, chickpea, field bean, soybean, field pea, garden pea, cowpea and rice bean. It is eaten as the special dish on the full moon day of August.[5]


A bowl of canh chua

Vietnamese cuisine features two basic categories of soup: noodle soups and broths (Vietnamese: canh).

Noodle soups are enjoyed for both breakfast and dinner. Popular noodle soups include phở, rice vermicelli (bún bò Huế, bún mọc, bún ốc, Bún riêu cua, bún suông, etc.), (mì Quảng in Quảng Nam Province), bánh canh, bánh đa cua (in Hai Phong province), nui, and hủ tiếu.

Broths are thin and generally made from vegetables and spices. They are typically eaten over steamed rice in ordinary lunches and dinners. Common broths include canh chua rau đay and canh chua cá lóc.

Hot pot (lẩu) is a popular traditional soup in Vietnam. Mushroom hot pot was popularized by the Ashima Restaurant chain in Vietnam.

A thick, sweet, porridge-like soup called chè is eaten as a snack.


Many Asian soups are consumed as a partial restorative and heavily linked with theories from traditional Chinese medicine. Exotic rarities like tiger penis soup fall in this category. There are many varieties of such tonic soups, ranging from pungent to light in flavour, and from savoury to sweet.[6] Some soups of the same name may consist of different recipes due to regional preferences or differences. Such soups commonly contain one or more meats (typically pork or chicken), vegetables, and medicinal herbs.

The most commonly used herbs, which are believed to be mildly invigorating, restorative, or immune-stimulating in nature, include wild yam (Dioscorea opposita), Astragalus membranaceus, Codonopsis pilosula, Angelica sinensis, wolfberry, and jujube.[7] Ginseng and lingzhi are used less frequently, due to their comparatively higher price.

Many specific recipes for tonic soups using other herbs exist. Some of the best-known are:


A pot of samgyetang (Korean chicken ginseng soup)

The Asian soup noodle is a large portion of long noodles served in a bowl of broth. In comparison, western noodle soup is more of a soup with small noodle pieces. The former dish is dominated by the carbohydrate while the latter dish is dominated by the soup liquid.

  • Phở is a Vietnamese staple noodle soup. Its broth is made from boiling beef bones, ginger, and sweet spices (star anise, cinnamon, and cloves) over many hours.
  • Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup that comes in several varieties.
  • Thukpa is Tibetan noodle soup, that is more or less the staple (along with butter tea and tsampa).
  • Udon soup has thick, soft noodles in a light broth. There are many varieties with different noodles and toppings.

See also[edit]


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