FoodFood Trips

10 Things I’m Loving Now – soup-ah!

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Soup is liquid comfort.  ~Author Unknown

Especially at this time of the year, when the weather gets chilly and the skies dark, I crave for something hot to keep me warm. For the past days I’ve been eating noodle soup for lunch. Last weekend I had cheese fondue for dinner. On special request, I had goto  (a Filipino version of rice porridge) last Tuesday night. It’s just very appropriate to enjoy all these during the cold seasons in Switzerland. But even under the tropical heat in Pinas I don’t give it up. I remember I celebrated my birthday two years ago (in the summer month of April) in a Japanese restaurant, serving myself an extra large bowl of ramen. Prior to that, I had been hopping from one ramen resto to another because I was terribly craving for it.

I really, really love soup. I can go on eating any kinds of noodles and soup dishes for days. I won’t complain. When I was young, I would keep a stash of instant Japanese noodles for myself, which we’d buy from duty free store or receive from relatives residing in or touring around Japan, and I’d eat it endlessly like there’s no tomorrow; to the extent my mom would poke fun at me saying I got my chinky eyes from eating Japanese noodles too much.

1. Japanese ramen

I couldn’t find a ramen house in Switzerland. In case there’s a decent one, believe me, it’s going to cost me a fortune. Why oh why? When my cravings for Japanese ramen get triggered, it is so easy to find one in the Philippines.  For quick visits and reasonable price, I’d go to either Rai Rai Ken or Sakura restaurant. Before I left the country, I even celebrated my birthday in a compound called Little Tokyo in Makati where you can eat authentically made Japanese food. What I love about Japanese noodles is the savoring flavor of its broth – the meat cooked on a low simmer for hours until the juice and flavors go out, a mix with miso, or a tinge taste of curry for something new. Then there goes a choice of noodles. The popular selections must be ramen and udon.

Ohlala, I’m craving again.

2. Chinese noodles

If there’s no Japanese ramen, I resort to Chinese noodles.  Personally I find Chinese noodles less healthy but with more variety over its Japanese counterparts. Of course it is the Chinese who introduced this most staple food to almost all countries in Asia (the Philippines is one).  There’s a huge selection of Chinese noodles, which vary greatly from one region to another. China is absolutely a noodles haven.

3. Pinoy congee

Congee is a type of rice porridge that goes with many variations but it is always a thick soup of rice, which is prolongedly cooked in plenty of water. Overall I enjoy different kinds of rice porridge, but my palate would always return to yearn for the Pinoy version, our lugaw.

Lúgaw (alternately spelled lugao or lugau) is the Filipino name for congee. Otherwise similar to Cantonese-style congee, lúgaw is typically thicker, retaining the shape of the rice, but with a similar texture. It is boiled with strips of fresh ginger. Other flavors may be added according to taste. Most often it is topped with scallions and served with crispy fried garlic. As with Japanese okayu, fish or chicken stock may be used to flavor the broth. Lúgaw can also be served with tokwa’t baboy (diced tofu and pork), goto (beef tripe), utak (brain [of pig]), dilâ (tongue [of pig]), litid ([beef] ligaments), and with calamansi, patís, and soy sauce. It is often served to the ill and the elderly, and is favoured among Filipinos living abroad in colder climates because it is warm, soft, and easily digestible.

Some provinces prefer the Spanish-influenced arroz caldo (literally “rice broth”), which is often thought to be a European dish because of its name. Arroz caldo is actually a Chinese congee that was adapted to the tastes of the Spanish colonial settlers who patronised Chinese restaurants in the Philippines.

Arroz caldo is usually spiced with safflower and black pepper in place of or in addition to the more traditional ginger and scallion. Arroz caldo more closely resembles risotto than congee, from which it can be distinguished by its bright yellow saffron colour and the relatively larger pieces of chicken meat. Arroz caldo is more popular among people of Ilokano heritage, although those of other provinces, such as Cebu, often eat it with the addition of prawns, olive oil, bay leaf, and Chinese sausage.

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4. Shabu-shabu

When thousands of young Koreans swarmed the streets of Manila to live and to learn English, Korean shabu-shabu restaurants sprouted like mushrooms everywhere. Fortunately there was no awkward introduction. As it turns out, it’s a big hit for most Pinoys. The communal experience of eating shabu-shabu, as well as cooking it fresh right there and then at the dining table, is what makes it extra interesting. All ingredients are just simmered in the broth so shabu-shabu is healthy and not fattening. It’s guilt-free for me!

Yet shabu-shabu is not uniquely Korean. When we went into this spa one time and I introduced her to this, my mom associated shabu-shabu with the Japanese sukiyaki. Apparently, shabu-shabu is more known as a Japanese variant of hot pot. The name is an onomatopeia derived from the swishing sound of cooking the meat in the pot. The slight difference between shabu-shabu and sukiyaki is the taste (shabu-shabu is more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki). On the other, the difference between Korean and Japanese shabu-shabu is that the Korean style has gochugaru and kimchi that turn the broth red and spicy. In Japanese shabu-shabu, au contraire, it is not expected to drink the soup.

5. Vietnamese Phở

Another equally healthy and delicious Asian meal, phở is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup served with beef or chicken, and side garnishes such as onions, chili peppers, cilantro, mint leaves, lime, bean sprouts and Thai basil that are deliberately added to the soup by the person eating it.

Phở Hoa, a Vietnamese resto chain, has been around for a long time in Pinas. Though through this restaurant, it was just two years ago (also at the time I was strictly on a regimen) that I came to learn to eat and appreciate this dish.

6. Thai’s Tom Yum

Tom yum is the go-to soup dish that satisfies my ultimate delight for something hot, sour and “coconutty” (what a term). To be exact, tom yum goong maphrao on nam khon, tom yum nam khon and tom kha gai are the tom yum variations that use coconut milk as soup base.

If I get a chance to visit Thailand, which I plan to do soon hopefully, I’ll definitely try all the tom yums in the world they’ve ever got. So, bring it on!

7. La Paz Batchoy

It is going to be death by La Paz Batchoy. Chowing down bowls of this noodle soup, which originated from my parents’ province, Iloilo in the Philippines, is like having your last meal in your lifetime (only if you’ve got heart or BP problems perhaps). The most original La Paz batchoy is absolutely cholesterol-heavy due to its ingredients: the pork innards (liver, spleen, kidney and heart), crushed pork cracklings, beef loin, bone marrow, shrimps and its broth (or guinamos, a local shrimp paste) and a raw egg on top.

It’s been said that after the World War II, a local butcher at the La Paz market was figuring out how to make use of the pork and beef organs and bones left at the end of the day. After a series of trial-and-error, he soon found the taste he was looking for and named it batchoy. It does sound catchy for the people in the streets alright.

8. Vegetable soups

Now let’s move towards West, when all kinds of vegetables are sliced, diced, minced or mashed and placed all in a boiling water to make one hot vegetable soup. I like it nonetheless, and it is all so simple to make one. My most favorite of them all are the Minestrone from Italy and French onion soup from France (where the best foods in Europe belong).

9. Cream soups

I’m fond of Campbell’s. And chowder, if this also counts.

10. Swiss fondue

I am its newest fan. Thanks to its deliriously delicious melted cheese, I gained more than a pound. I will talk more about my experience with Swiss fondue on my later post. This dish deserves extra attention, and so is raclette.

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