How a Bowl of Cozy Chicken Soup Is Made Around the World
Around the globe, flavorful pots of this beloved comfort food are prepared with ingredients like ginger, coconut milk, chickpea dumplings and a wide variety of vegetables. These five chicken soup recipes—shared by cooks with roots in Colombia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Iran and Morocco—are a delicious place to start exploring.
Get the recipe: Ajiaco Bogotano (Potato Soup with Corn, Chicken & Capers)
Ajiaco celebrates a key crop in the Andes Mountains region, where more than 4,000 potato varieties are grown. There are three types in this soup. Cookbook author and food stylist Mariana Velásquez uses russets to stand in for Sabanera potatoes, which practically dissolve into the broth, giving it body. Yukon Golds and tiny creamer potatoes replace Pastusas and Criollas—the former lends a golden hue and the latter a sweet, almost buttery flavor. Guascas—a fragrant herb also known as galinsoga, gallant soldier or potato weed—imparts a slightly bitter taste unmatched by anything else, Velásquez says. (Look for it dried online or in the few Colombian markets in the U.S.; you can also find it fresh at farmers' markets.) The soup takes her back to her childhood in Bogotá. She remembers one Friday each month being "Ajiaco Day" at her all-girls school. "They would bring the bowls of broth to each of us and then place the avocados, corn, chicken, capers and cream in the center of the table," she says. "It was the most special lunch and we all loved it."
Get the recipe: Spicy Coconut Chicken Soup
Food from this island nation, located off the southern tip of India, has flavor combinations not seen in other cuisines because of its position at the intersection of trade routes and cultures, says Kentucky-based chef Samantha Fore, whose family is from the country. This soup exemplifies the essential, mouthwatering combo of sweet, sour and heat; bright acidity from fresh lime juice is balanced by coconut milk, which adds richness without being heavy. Spices grown on the island— like cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and cumin—lend toasty notes to the broth and add a layer of gentle heat behind the fiery dried chile. The Tuk Tuk spice blend is one Fore created (named after her pop-up restaurant, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites) and is available online through spicewallabrand.com. "It is basically everything I would put into a chicken curry," she says, including ginger, lemongrass and turmeric.
Get the recipe: Tinola (Filipino Ginger-Garlic Chicken Soup)
Tinola, a comforting chicken soup seasoned with plenty of ginger and garlic, is a staple in the Philippines. But it's not as well-known in the U.S., says Filipina American photographer Natalia Roxas. She explains that this is because, stateside, Filipino restaurants typically serve rich "party" food, like lechon (whole roasted pig) or lumpia (spring rolls), which gives the impression that most Filipino fare is fried or brown. "In reality, we have one of the most colorful, flavorful and thoughtful arrays of dishes throughout our islands," she says. When Roxas finds herself at home in the Midwest in winter, she always has the gingery broth of this soup on hand. "It just feels like your lola (grandmother) giving you the warmest hugs when you don't feel good," she says. The soup also calls for green papaya and vitamin-rich malunggay (aka moringa) leaves, from the drumstick tree, which grows across Asia and Africa. Chayote can stand in for the papaya, and bok choy or spinach makes a good substitute for the malunggay. Roxas pairs the soup with a side of jasmine rice.
Get the recipe: Gondi (Iranian Jewish Chicken Meatball Soup)
While she may be best known for acting in television series like NCIS and Criminal Minds, Naz Deravian's popular Persian food blog launched her into the culinary world. "I was hungry for the dishes that comforted me—the scents, sounds and spices that defined me and my culture," she says. A popular dish in Iran is gondi: meatballs in broth sprinkled with fresh herbs, often served for Friday night Shabbat in Iranian Jewish households. Though not Jewish herself, Deravian loves the classic soup for its cardamom-perfumed meat- balls and fragrant, turmeric-based broth. She says, "The spices gives it a depth and unique warmth. And nutrient-rich chickpea flour—a common ingredient in Iranian dishes—makes the meatballs tender and satisfying."
Get the recipe: Chicken Chorba
"Chorba" comes from the Arabic word for drink, referring to this soup's thin broth. It's popular across North Africa and is prepared in numerous ways—with fish, meat or just veggies. This no-frills recipe was passed down to London-based chef Nargisse Benkabbou from her maternal grandmother. The simple ingredients make a tasty meal that evokes her past. "In Morocco, chorba is often enjoyed during Ramadan, so it always reminds me of the times we used to gather with my family to break the fast," she says. Benkabbou—who frequently flies to Marrakech, where she's the executive chef at L'Mida—aims to celebrate her heritage with every dish. But she doesn't hesitate to add her own modern twist. "I love spicy food," says Benkabbou. "So I always end up adding harissa to my chorba, although it's a bit untraditional."