Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup, Vietnam's national dish, street food, comfort food, and a way of life. It is also one of the most beloved Vietnamese dishes in the western hemisphere due to its complex, unique flavors, and elegant simplicity. Although it is classified as a soup, pho is served as the main course and the two bowls of it never taste the same.
It is traditionally made with chicken or beef broth, where the bones simmer lazily for at least three hours until the broth is perfect. The addition of herbs and spices accentuates the flavors, and the chewy rice noodles, juicy beef slices, and crunchy sprouts elevate the dish to another level.
Tom Yum, Thailand
Tom Yum is one of the best known Thai dishes, a spicy, sour, and aromatic soup that is traditionally served with rice. It consists of shallots, lemongrass, fish sauce, minced fresh ginger, galangal, shrimps, mushrooms, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, and minced Thai chili peppers. Usually served as an appetizer, tom yum is traditionally garnished with coriander leaves on top.
Due to its popularity, different versions of the soup started to appear over the years, such as tom yum gai, with added chicken, and tom yum talay, with mixed seafood. Full of nutrients, flavorful, satiating, and healthy, tom yum is one of the most popular Thai dishes for a reason.
Ramen is a noodle soup dish that was originally imported from China in the late 19th century and has become one of the most popular dishes in Japan. Nearly every region has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu to the miso ramen of Hokkaido. Ramen restaurants, or ramen-ya, can be found in virtually every corner of the country.
Ramen is generally made from stock based on chicken or pork, combined with a variety of ingredients such as large brown algae seaweeds called kelps, skipjack tuna flakes, dried baby sardines, beef bones, pork bones, shiitake mushrooms, and onions. Some modern Ramen broths can also be vegetable based. That is a lot of ingredients just to cook broth! Ramen noodles come in various shapes and lengths. They may be thick, thin, or even ribbon-like, as well as straight or wrinkled.
Wonton Noodles, China
Wonton noodles is a popular Cantonese noodle dish with many regional varieties found throughout Southeast Asia. Traditionally, it consists of chewy egg noodles and wonton dumplings, combined and served in a flavorful chicken, pork, or seafood broth. The dumplings are usually filled with a combination of minced pork and shrimps, lightly flavored with sesame oil, soy sauce, and grated ginger. The stringy thin egg noodles are the most common variety found in many versions of the dish. The choice of garnishes is region-specific and is influenced by common culinary traditions of the particular area where wonton noodles are found.
The traditional Cantonese version is typically served with sliced chives and scallions sprinkled on top of the assembled soup. In Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, slices of barbecued pork are the most common addition, usually placed on top of the soup.
Samgyetang, South Korea
Samgyetang is a flavorful soup from South Korea, consisting of a whole young chicken cooked with ginseng, garlic, and rice. In Korea, ginseng is revered for its medicinal properties, as it lowers blood sugar and boosts the body's immune system and stamina, making samgyetang an ideal soup for hot summer days, when people fall into nutrition deficiency due to excessive sweating and loss of appetite.
The flavors of the soup are somewhat milder than other Korean and Chinese herbal medicinal soups, and the key to its popularity during the summer may also be in its price, as it is generally pretty inexpensive. If consumed in a restaurant, there will often be a small bottle of insangju ginseng alcohol served on the side, believed to boost physical and sexual stamina.
Laksa, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand
Laksa is a spicy noodle soup popular in Peranakan cuisine that originated from the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago including British Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore).
Laksa contains noodles or vermicelli with the addition of chicken, beef, meatballs, prawn or fish, served in a spicy hot broth. It is a little bit thick, fragrant, fishy and slightly spicy. The richness of coconut milk is mixed with fresh lemongrass, chilis, shallots, galanga, turmeric and spices that are ground and added to the broth. The soup is complemented with various toppings such a wedge of lime, omelet strips, peeled boiled prawns, freshly chopped coriander leaves, bean sprouts and fried tofu.
Sinigang is a sour Filipino soup consisting of sampalok (fruits of the tamarind tree), water spinach, green pepper, cabbage, broccoli, eggplant, diced tomatoes, sliced onions, ginger, green beans, water, oil, and salt. The basic broth usually consists of rice washing, with the addition of a souring agent.
Ingredients such as pork, fish, milkfish, shrimp, chicken or beef may also be added to the soup. Sinigang is traditionally served hot and steaming as a main dish, with rice as its accompaniment. It is an often seen dish at special occasions such as birthdays or weddings, and over time, as the dish became more popular, there were new variations that used guava or raw mango instead of sampalok and each region developed their own version of the popular soup.
Throughout Indonesia, soto is known under various names such as the Makassar coto or the Pekalongan tauto. However, this traditional Indonesian soup is usually associated with the island of Java, where it is believed to have appeared in its original form. Nowadays there is no right way to prepare soto because the varieties are numerous and usually adapted to local cuisines. Although it is believed that soto was developed because of a strong Chinese influence in the country, it is more likely that the soup was created following common cooking traditions of the area and utilizing the ingredients which were available in abundance.
This versatile dish also has a myriad of accompaniments such as stewed eggs, grilled offal, fried tofu, and either chili or soy sauce. Soto is regarded as comfort food, and it can be found everywhere in Indonesia - from local open-air eateries to high-end restaurants. This authentic Indonesian creation is also popular and commonly eaten in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.
Hot Pot, China
Hot pot is a traditional Chinese soup made with a variety of East Asian ingredients. The dish is prepared by simmering a pot of soup stock at the table, then placing the ingredients into the pot. Typical ingredients used in hot pots include mushrooms, thinly sliced meat, tofu, seafood, leafy vegetables, egg dumplings, udon, potatoes, and many more. Nowadays, there is a huge variety of hot pot dishes, and cooked ingredients are traditionally consumed with a dipping sauce on the side.