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Winter might be long, dark, and cold, but it’s the perfect time to snuggle up under a blanket to binge-watch a show or two, and stay warm — with soup. Let your taste buds help you travel around the world this winter with these seven international soups that will keep you cozy and full.
A staple at any Greek restaurant, this soup is made with eggs, lemon juice, broth, and usually chicken and rice. Avgolemono, however, didn’t originate in Greece, but was a recipe brought over from Sephardic Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula, who were expelled from Spain in 1492. The Sephardic Jews grew many citrus fruits back home, so using fresh lemon juice to create a bold, tangy egg soup was practically second-nature. The name of the soup changed from agristada to avgolemono, which literally means “egg-lemon.”
You’ve probably had sauerkraut on a hot dog, but have you had the fermented cabbage in soup? Sauerkrautsuppe (sauerkraut soup) is a favorite dish in Germany, and even a few German celebrities have claimed it kept them fit throughout the years. You can have plain sauerkraut soup, but it’s always better with sausage or bacon and paired with a cold, German beer. And make sure you use German sauerkraut when you make it — sauerkraut from the United States is made with vinegar, which destroys the cabbage’s natural flavor.
Borscht, as you might know it, is the blood-red, beet soup popular in Russia — but surprisingly, borscht didn’t originate in Russia or contain beets at all. The soup was a Ukrainian creation, dating back to sometime between the 5th and 9th centuries, and was made with parsnips. No one knows for sure when beets became the vegetable of choice for borscht, but historians guess it was in the 17th or 18th century when Ukraine was ruled by Russia. It expanded in popularity throughout Russia in the late 19th century. Today, this sweet and sour soup is best served either hot or cold with sour cream, a slice of rye bread, and a sprig of dill.
The traditional Mexican stew, pozole, is most often a mixture of pork, hominy (coarsely ground corn), garlic, and broth. Although the stew’s exact history in Mexico is unknown, the original recipe is referenced in written accounts of the area by Spanish conquistadors. The original pozole was only served on special occasions by the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican indigenous peoples since corn was considered to be a sacred crop. Today, pozole is served all over Mexico and regularly at holiday celebrations. Make sure you try all three variations: pozole rojo (red pozole with red salsa), pozole verde (green pozole with green salsa), and pozole blanco (white pozole without salsa).
If you’re going to eat pho, the quintessential Vietnamese noodle soup, make sure you pronounce it right. Pho is pronounced like “fuh,” not “foh.” Pho is believed to have originated in Van Cu, a village near Hanoi, but didn’t become popular in Vietnam until the early 1900s. When the French occupied Vietnam, they gave leftover scraps from cows slaughtered for steak to the butchers in Hanoi. The butchers then used the scraps to enhance a water buffalo noodle soup that was already popular, swapping the buffalo for beef and adding vermicelli instead of rice noodles. The new concoction became the modern-day pho, which was served far and wide by street vendors — popularizing the soup around the country by 1930.
Stracciatella is considered an Italian egg drop soup featuring an egg and cheese mixture drizzled into a meat broth, forming strands or “rags” in the soup. “Stracci” is the Italian word for rags, while “stracciare” means to shred something. The soup is typically served on Easter but is popular throughout Italy year-round. When you order it in Italy, remember to specify what you want — there’s also stracciatella gelato and stracciatella cheese.
Maafe, Western Africa
This West African dish can be considered a soup, stew, and sauce all at the same time. Maafe is a traditional meal of meat chunks in a peanut sauce, served with couscous or rice. It first appeared in Mali, but soon spread across West Africa because colonists were attempting to increase groundnut production. Today, maafe is made with lamb or beef, and soupier versions also include cabbage, peppers, and onions.