We’ve eaten soup in dozens of countries around the globe. Grab a spoon and slurp away as we reveal our picks for the 45 best soups in the world.
“A liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food.”
We get inspired by soup. We’re not talking about the literal Merriam-Webster dictionary definition above. Our inspiration has come from eating soup around the world in five continents, 50 countries and too many cities to count.
We’re also not talking about Merriam-Webster’s alternate definition that involves an unfortunate predicament. We much prefer eating soup over being in the soup!
Thinking about soup evokes memories beyond yesterday’s lunch and past travels. We can’t help but remember holidays and other gatherings when our mothers and grandmothers would make chicken soup in pots that towered over the stove, slowly simmering the soup with a layer of pillow-like matzoh balls floating on top.
Our connection to soup isn’t unique. Families around the globe gather around similar pots. However, some pots have wontons or dumplings instead of matzoh balls.
Table of Contents
- The History of Soup
- Our History with Soup
- Our Picks for the Best Soups in the World
- 1. Phở (Vietnam)
- 2. Ramen (Japan)
- 3. Borscht (Eastern Europe)
- 4. Wonton Noodle Soup (China)
- 5. Caldo Verde (Portugal)
- 6. Cullen Skink (Scotland)
- 7. Khao Soi (Thailand)
- 8. Vegetable Soup (Various Countries)
- 9. Tortellini in Brodo (Italy)
- 10. Goulash (Hungary)
- 11. Chicken Noodle Soup (Various Countries)
- 12. Šaltibarščiai (Lithuania)
- 13. Niu Rou Mian (Taiwan)
- 14. Fiskesuppe (Norway)
- 15. Tomato Soup (Various Countries)
- 16. Rasam
- 17. Pea Soup (Various Countries)
- 18. Bún Bò Huế (Vietnam)
- 19. Bab Leves (Hungary)
- 20. Tom Yum (Thailand)
- 21. Tom Khao Gai
- 22. Matzo Ball Soup (Eastern Europe)
- 23. Gazpacho (Spain)
- 24. Açorda (Portugal)
- 25. Miso Soup (Japan)
- 26. Ribolita (Italy)
- 27. Pumpkin Soup (Various Countries)
- 28. Gumbo (USA)
- 29. Ciorba de Fasole (Romania)
- 30. Lanzhou Noodle Soup (China)
- 31. Turtle Soup (USA)
- 32. Leberknödelsuppe (Germany)
- 33. Udon (Japan)
- 34. Clam Chowder (USA)
- 35. Mulligatawny Soup (India)
- 36. Soupe l’Oignon (France)
- 37. Sopa de Tortilla (Mexico)
- 38. Soba (Japan)
- 39. Pappa al Pomodoro (Italy)
- 40. Kuay Tiaw Reua (Thailand)
- 41. Hot and Sour Soup (China)
- 42. Che (Vietnam)
- 43. Yaka Mein (USA)
- 44. Kulajda (Czech Republic)
- 45.Xiǎo Lóng Bāo (China)
The History of Soup
Call us romantic but we like to think that humans began cooking soup not long after discovering how effectively fire cooks food. And we’re not alone with this hypothesis.
Archeologists have traced the ritual of eating hot soup so far back that it predates modern civilization by many millennia. While we’ll never know how soup tasted back in 20,000 BC when Neanderthals boiled bones in water, we certainly respect their efforts while using clay pots and hot rocks to make that first generation of soup.
Ancient civilizations took soup to the next level by adding vegetables and other ingredients to the mix. They even traveled with their soup recipes. Whether it was the Romans, Chinese, Turks or Ottomans, each conquering empire spread its soup customs to foreign lands, with many soup traditions remaining long after the conquerers were chased away.
Soup continued to evolve over the centuries with each country making the food its own. Much like other foods, soup types reflected the geography and history of their originating countries. Some countries added bread while others added lentils and yet others added noodles. Ironically, many countries followed similar paths without imitation or purpose.
Soup worlds began to collide once explorers and traders began traversing across oceans and along the silk road. Eventually, canning and dehydration gave soup the push it needed to become a truly global food.
Ironically, soup’s journey has taken a full circle back to its roots.
Followers of the Paleo diet started simmering bones in water and the end result has been ‘remarketed’ to the masses as trendy bone broth. Additions like veggies, herbs and spices elevate modern-day bone broth beyond the Neanderthal version but, at the end of the day, it’s kind of the same thing albeit in a much fancier bowl.
Our History with Soup
Our history with soup goes back to childhood. As a teenager, Daryl would always take ribbing from his friends for ordering soup during late night trips to the local diner while they ordered burgers and fries. As for Mindi, she stocked her cupboard with dozens of cans of Progresso Soup whenever they were on sale. During her single days, soup was a cheap, fast and low calorie meal option in a pinch.
Over the past decade, we’ve experienced excellent noodle soups in China, extraordinary ramen in Japan and rich, decadent onion soup in both Paris and Montreal. With each arrival at a new destination, a bowl of soup soon followed. Whether it was Caldo Verde at our first honeymoon dinner at a Porto restaurant or Tonkatsu Ramen at 3:00 am in Osaka, a hot bowl was always on our agenda.
Our Picks for the Best Soups in the World
Campbell’s Soup famously coined the phrase “Soup Is Good Food” in the 1980s and we still repeat this slogan when we encounter soup at both street food stalls and Michelin-starred restaurants. We do this because the slogan is true.
Mindi is the one who always says “Soup is Good Food.” It’s one of her many catch phrases.
We’ve tasted soups that opened up a world of flavor over the past 10 years. As our pallets changed and grew along with our travels and culinary experiences, so did our appreciation for a good bowl of broth.
Combing through our collection of 20,000+ photos to find true soup gems has been both overwhelming and fun. Read on to discover our picks for the best soups in the world.
1. Phở (Vietnam)
Easily the most popular Vietnamese food in the world, Phở lives up to its vaunted reputation when eaten in its homeland. Named after the flat, fettuccine-like phở noodles that fill the bowl, Phở in Vietnam is pure magic. Ironically, though, Vietnamese noodle soup is different depending on where you slurp it in the narrow Southeast Asian country.
In Hanoi, where Phở was invented back in the early 20th century, the French-influenced broth has clear flavors developed during a simmering process that marries protein to liquid. Despite its apparent simplicity, Hanoi’s Phở is a complex, satisfying meal in a bowl.
Surprisingly different, Phở in Saigon typically has a richer, sweeter taste and often comes with a range of hot and sweet condiments along with a variety of leafy green herbs. Phở in Saigon and the rest of the South most resembles the Pho served in most North American restaurants.
The two main Vietnamese Phở varieties are chicken (Phở Gà) and beef (Phở Bò). The best Phở vendors typically serve one or the other, ladling soup from large vats to queues of hungry Phở fans.
Discover more great food in Vietnam.
2. Ramen (Japan)
We’ve eaten Ramen all over the world in cities like Budapest, Lisbon, New York and Paris but our favorite bowls have been in the Japanese cities of Fukuoka, Osaka and Tokyo. This superiority makes sense since the global soup sensation originated in the Land of the Rising Sun albeit with Chinese influences.
Ramen bowls around the world feature savory broth, toothy wheat noodles, chāsū (pork), nori (seaweed), scallions and a softly boiled egg. Broth variations include miso, shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) and tonkotsu (pork bone). And this doesn’t contemplate regional variations like Hakata Ramen in Fukuoka or Hokaido Ramen in Hokaido.
Our initial Japanese Ramen experience at Ramen Street in Tokyo hooked us in but our Ramen infatuation became a Ramen obsession in Osaka. After slurping our first (but not last) Ramen bowl at Ippudo soon after our arrival, we proceeded to eat enough Ramen in Japan’s most food-focused city to find our favorites. We became so obsessed that we even visited the Instant Ramen Museum on the outskirts of the city during our visit.
Discover the best ramen in Osaka.
3. Borscht (Eastern Europe)
A soup with roots spread throughout Eastern Europe in countries like Poland, Russia and the Ukraine, Borscht is a tangy beet-based soup that jumped the pond when masses immigrated to America a century ago. These roots go deep – at least 500 years. Typical Borscht ingredients include meat as well as vegetables like carrots and onions in addition to beets.
While our grandmothers tried to get us to eat Borscht when we were kids, we didn’t appreciate the blood-red soup until we tasted it during our travels. We’ve since voluntarily eaten Borscht in cities like Bucharest, Portland, Turku and Vilnius. We even ate two different Borscht versions in Tallinn, Estonia. Our beloved grandmothers would be so proud.
Discover more great food in Tallinn.
4. Wonton Noodle Soup (China)
A staple in Cantonese cuisine, Wonton Noodle Soup is available at Chinese restaurants around the world. It’s a dish that proves that ‘more is more’ with its starch duo of noodles and meat-filled wontons.
5. Caldo Verde (Portugal)
Caldo Verde translates to green broth. Originally from northern Portugal but popular throughout the country, Caldo Verde is a comforting poor man’s soup typically made with potatoes, kale and olive oil.
Most bowls of Caldo Verde have a slice or two of Portuguese chouriço which adds a hint of smokey flavor and a bit of protein. While we covet these slices whenever we slurp the soup at home or in Lisbon restaurants, vegetarians and vegans can skip adding the meaty morsels to their bowls.
Discover more great food in Lisbon.
6. Cullen Skink (Scotland)
Cullen Skink is a Scottish soup with a funny name and familiar flavor. Named after the northeastern coastal town of Cullen in Scotland, the smokey chowder is often made with smoked haddock, potatoes and either leeks or onions. The word skink refers to beef shins or knuckles that were traditionally used before Cullen Skink became a pescatarian potage.
While we haven’t been to Cullen yet, we ate Cullen Skink in Fife (near Edinburgh) after joining local food expert Christopher Trotter on an expedition that included stops at a local market and fishmonger. Trotter proceeded to cook a pot of the signature Scottish soup that warmed us up from the inside out.
Discover more great food in Fife.
7. Khao Soi (Thailand)
We first fell for Khao Soi when we slurped Northern Thailand’s popular coconut curry noodle soup in Portland. A few months later, our infatuation turned to love when we ate multiple bowls of tasty Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. We later ramped that love up to the next level when we learned how to cook Khao Soi from scratch during a Chiang Mai cooking class.
But what is Khao Soi? With Islamic origins in Burma and elements from Yunnan, China, Khao Soi marries fried and boiled noodles and combines them with a unique curry, coconut milk and meaty broth. Cooked low and slow, this highly slurpable Thai soup is a must-eat during any visit to Chiang Mai.
Discover more great food in Chiang Mai.
8. Vegetable Soup (Various Countries)
Say you were a farmer a few thousand years ago and you had to feed your family. You knew how to make bread and you also had a bunch of onions, leafy greens like cabbage, green beans and some root vegetables like carrots. Eating vegetable soup would have been a no-brainer for feeding your family of five or 20. Not much has changed except that families of 20 aren’t so common any more.
You don’t need to make much to make good vegetable soup today. You just need a little imagination and a trip to the market for veggies and maybe some noodles. In that sense, Vegetable Soup may be the most freeform soup in the world.
9. Tortellini in Brodo (Italy)
For the uninitiated, Tortellini in Brodo consists of small handmade dumplings served with a rich, meaty broth. While other outstanding brodo dishes use pastas like angolotti and passetteli, tortellini is the Bologna classic. Trust us – this dish alone is worth a trip to Bologna.
Simply described as tortellini swimming in a bowl of capon broth, Tortellini in Brodo is that and so much more. It’s the dish we seek first whenever we return to Emilia-Romagna. While we like the capon version, the brodo (i.e. broth) can vary between beef and poultry or even both.
It’s Italy’s version of comforting chicken noodle soup with a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top. The Parmigiano makes it taste even better.
Discover more great food in Bologna.
10. Goulash (Hungary)
Goulash is one of those dishes that can be either a soup or a stew depending on its preparation and your preference. We like both versions whether we’re in Hungary where Goulash was invented or European cities like Hamburg and Zagreb. Similar to Borscht, Goulash is readily available throughout Central Europe as well as in the US.
Originally a humble dish prepared by gulyás (Hungarian cowherds) out on the range, Goulash is a famous Hungarian dishes that features paprika, Hungary’s most famous spice, as well as ingredients like meat, carrots and potatoes.
Most Budapest restaurants serve Goulash as a comforting soup except when they prepare it as a comforting stew. Comfort is the key word here.
Discover more great food in Budapest.
11. Chicken Noodle Soup (Various Countries)
Let’s be clear here, the combination of chicken and noodles has been around for a long time. The Chinese have a documented history of cooking versions of chicken broth with noodles while the Vietnamese have been eating the modern version of Phở for over a century. Food historians even trace evidence of the Italians adding tortellini to chicken-based broth back two centuries.
However, the actual name Chicken Noodle Soup entered the popular lexicon when the Campbell Soup Company renamed their “Noodles with Chicken Soup” to “Chicken Noodle Soup” after a radio announcer misread an add for the Camden company’s famous canned soup in the 1930s.
It was a good move. While we can’t picture ourselves in a restaurant saying “I’ll have the “Chicken with Noodles Soup,” we’ve ordered Chicken Noodle Soup many a time. The old name just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way.
Buy cans of Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup from Amazon to eat at home.
12. Šaltibarščiai (Lithuania)
Despite its vivid pink color, Šaltibarščiai is as refreshing as it is bright. Similar to Poland’s Borscht, Lithuania’s Šaltibarščiai gets its pink color from beets. Other ingredients include cucumber, dill, green onions, hard boiled eggs and kefir (a fermented milk product made with kefir grains).
Lithuanians typically top Šaltibarščiai with sour cream and fresh dill and eat the chilled soup with potatoes on the side. The combination of a bowl of chilled pink soup and crispy potatoes is a winner otherwise known as lunch.
Discover more great food in Lithuania.
13. Niu Rou Mian (Taiwan)
Many countries have a signature version of beef noodle soup. Taiwan’s version is called Niu Rou Mian… and it’s one of our favorites.
To make Niu Rou Mian, Taiwanese cooks combine braised beef, savory broth, herbs and spices before adding hand drawn noodles. The resulting soup has deep flavors and is highly slurpable at spots like Yong-Kang Beef Noodle in Taipei. This particular local institution slow cooks meat procured from Australia and adds Sichuan spices for an extra kick.
Discover five tasty Taipei food experiences.
14. Fiskesuppe (Norway)
Norwegian fish soup known as Fiskesuppe is a comforting dish to eat in Norway on a cold winter day. It’s also ideal to eat on rainy summer days which was our experience as we ate our way around drizzly Oslo.
Our bowl of Kremet Fiskesuppe (creamy fish soup) was filled with cod, mussels, vegetables and herbs. We sopped up every last drop with the basket of bread served to us with aioli.
Discover more great food in Norway.
15. Tomato Soup (Various Countries)
If you grew up in the United States, then you know Tomato Soup as a complement to grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s difficult for us to picture eating Tomato Soup on its own since the soup’s sweet tomato flavors harmonize so well with the toasty flavors of fried white bread and cheese.
Chefs have created more inspired Tomato Soup versions like Tomato Florentine, Roasted Tomato Soup and Tomato Soup with Red Pepper. Some would consider Minestrone to be a Tomato Soup but that soup may better fit into the category of Vegetable Soup or even Bean Soup. It’s debatable.
As for Tomato Soup’s history, once again, the Campbell’s Soup Company played a huge role when the company invented condensed tomato soup in 1897. Andy Warhol took Tomato Soup to the next level of popularity in the 1960s by featuring it first on his 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans painting currently displayed at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. Warhol did an entire soup series that prominently featured Tomato Soup.
Buy cans of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup from Amazon to eat at home.
Ordering Rasam in Southern India has one peril – its name. Although rasam literally translates to juice, the dish is actually a tangy soup. Once you get past that potential pitfall, eating Rasam is a breeze.
Indian mothers sand grandmothers make this spicy soup as a cure for ailments much like western matriarchs cook vats of Chicken Soup; however, the two curative soups are totally different. While Chicken Soup tends to be lightly seasoned, Rasam’s bold flavor profile is both spicy and sour.
Not limited to India, Rasam is popular with South Africa’s Indian community and in Sri Lanka which is where we ate Rasam for the first time. Don’t worry – we enjoyed the dish in a bowl and not in a juice glass.
Buy rasam powder to cook Rasam at home. Ingredients include coriander, turmeric, red chili, fenugreek and black pepper.
17. Pea Soup (Various Countries)
Vivid green Pea Soup has appeared in both movies like The Exorcist and on dinner tables throughout the world from Europe and the USA all the way to Indonesia. Unlike green plants that sprout each spring, this green soup has a long history that dates back thousands of years and almost as many variations.
In America, cooks prepare Split Pea Soup by smoothing the verdant legume into a puree and combining it with smoked ham. Dutch cooks serve Pea Soup with rye bread and sometimes with pancakes. Scandinavian cooks in Sweden and Finland also serve Pea Soup with pancakes and, in a move we heartily endorse, mustard on the side. Then there’s France with its Potage St. Germaine, a Pea Soup variation that features split and sometimes fresh peas.
Potage St. Germain got its name from the Count of Saint Germain, French king Louis XIV’s war minister. Apparently Pea Soup was his favorite dish.
While many people associate Pea Soup with peasantry, that association isn’t complete. At upscale French Laundry in Napa Valley, legendary American chef Thomas Keller offers a luxurious English Pea Soup that’s made with fresh spring peas which have been strained to a super fine puree and served with Brioche cubes and fresh mint.
Read about our dinner at the French Laundry.
18. Bún Bò Huế (Vietnam)
Ironically, Bún Bò Huế translates to Beef Noodle Soup from Hue even though Bún Bò broths are often made with pork. Beyond meat, ingredients like lemongrass, shrimp paste, and lime juice ramp up the flavor. Adventurous eaters can also add cubed pig’s blood for even more flavor.
Although Bún Bò Huế is readily available throughout Vietnam, the best place to slurp the spicy Vietnamese soup is in Hue where it was invented. Hue offers visitors many reasons to visit from its imperial fortress to gorgeous pagodas on the Perfume River, but we’d argue that eating Bún Bò Huế should be top on the list for food travelers.
You can find great bowls at the Hue’s Dong Ba Market or at local stands around the city. Further afield, the soup is simply called Bún Bò in nearby Central Vietnamese cities like Da Nang.
Discover more great food in Da Nang.
19. Bab Leves (Hungary)
Bab Leves sounds exotic. It’s not. The name of this Hungarian soup literally translates to bean soup and that’s exactly what you’ll get when you order Bab Leves in a Hungarian restaurant.
Hungarian cooks have been transforming basic beans and ham hocks into comforting soup for generations. Perhaps it tastes so good because of the liberal addition of paprika. Popular in Hungarian dishes, paprika adds a sweet smokiness as well as a rich red hue.
Buy a tin of Hungarian paprika to cook a taste of Hungary at home.
20. Tom Yum (Thailand)
We don’t know Tom but we agree that his soup is yum. All jokes aside, while there is no Tom, there is plenty of yum in this dish. Tom actually refers to the boiling process used to make this dish.
Traditional Tom Yum soup contains typical Thai ingredients like kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai chilies and galangal (i.e. Thai ginger). Adding prawns upgrades Tom Yum to Tom Yum Goong, a move that we’ve never regretted making in Thailand or beyond.
Discover more great food in Thailand.
21. Tom Khao Gai
It would be easy to describe Tom Kha Gai as a ramped up Tom Yum. Sure, both soups share ingredients like chilies, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. But that wouldn’t be fair to the other ‘tom’.
Coconut milk gives Tom Kha Gai its richer, creamier texture. Adding mushrooms, chicken and rice turns this bowl of soup into a meal.
Buy coconut milk from Thailand via Amazon.
22. Matzo Ball Soup (Eastern Europe)
The debate about Matzo Ball Soup is real. Some people like their Jewish dumplings dense and chewy while other prefer them light and airy. There’s no debate about the broth which tastes best when made with a little schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) and a lot of love.
Our bubbies (Jewish grandmother) used both when they would cook Matzo Ball Soup for Passover and other holidays before our mothers followed in their footsteps. They all also used Streit’s Matzo Ball Mix without excuses.
We’ve since eaten bowls of Matzo Ball Soup at delis in both Philadelphia and New York as well as at multiple restaurants in Budapest. They were all satisfying but none quite matched the bowls from our childhoods.
Buy a box of Streit’s Matzo Ball Mix from Amazon.
23. Gazpacho (Spain)
Gazpacho is a chilled summer soup that refreshingly blends tomatoes, stale bread, cucumbers, olive oil and garlic in its recipe. Served in shot glasses at weddings as well as in restaurant bowls, the Spanish soup favorite can also be prepared by home cooks in blenders. But this modern-day Gazpacho isn’t the original version.
Europeans have been making Gazpacho since the 6th century, a millennia before they ‘discovered’ tomatoes and peppers in the new world. The original Gazpacho was a bread soup that Andalusian cooks prepared with a mortar and pestle after Romans conquerers brought the soup to Spain. Over time, Spanish cooks eventually adopted the soup as their own, added tomatoes and shared the chunky chilled soup with the world.
Add a splash of Spanish sherry to your Gazpacho recipe for an extra taste of Spain.
24. Açorda (Portugal)
Some of the best soups in the world are rooted in poverty. Made with day-old bread and pantry staples, Portugal’s Açorda is one of these soups.
In its simplest form and the way it was originally prepared in Alentejo, Açorda is a soup made with slightly stale bread, olive oil, garlic, vinegar, eggs and herbs. Some Portuguese chefs take the dish further by adding seafood to create a dish called Açorda de Marisco. The elevated seafood version is particularly popular in Portugal’s coastal areas.
Discover more great food in Portugal.
25. Miso Soup (Japan)
A combination of dashi stock and miso bean paste, Miso Soup is a popular starter at Japanese restaurants around the world. In Japan, it’s a key element of the daily diet.
While basic Miso Soup has tofu chunks and green onion slices, better versions add veggies and proteins to the mix. Our favorite miso soup in Tokyo was filled with baby cockles (clams), a briny addition that elevated the basic broth to something truly special.
Discover more great food in Japan.
26. Ribolita (Italy)
When Italians refer to Tuscans as mangiafagioli or bean-eaters, it’s not exactly a compliment. Back in the day, they typically applied the nickname to poor peasants of Tuscany who soaked beans overnight next to a fire and then mixed the soaked beans with scraps of old bread. Vegetables from the garden turned the mixture into Ribollita, an excellent example of what we now call ‘cucina povera’.
Ribollita has grown from its poor beginnings to become a primi fixture on restaurant menus in wealthy cities like Florence. Yes, along with Bistecca alla Fiorentina and various meat and game dishes, humble Ribollita represents the greatness of Tuscan food despite (or maybe because of) its poor origins.
Discover more great Florence food favorites.
27. Pumpkin Soup (Various Countries)
As Americans, we thought of Pumpkin Soup as a purely American soup served during the autumn and at Thanksgiving dinners. We were wrong.
After seeing Pumpkin Soup on menus in Europe, we now realize that Pumpkin Soup is popular across the pond. And then there’s Squash Soup which is popular in Africa. Since a pumpkin is technically a squash, maybe Squash Soup should be on this list instead of Pumpkin Soup. And don’t get us started on Eggplant Soup, which is also known as Aubergine Soup, since that soup is tasty too.
But back to Pumpkin Soup. Once we realized that Pumpkin Soup is a thing in Europe, we proceeded to eat bowls of the orange-hued soup in countries like Italy and Slovenia. Stand-out bowls were at Osteria La Zucca in Venice and Gostišče Grič just outside of Ljubljana.
Discover more great food in Ljubljana.
28. Gumbo (USA)
Gumbo could be the greatest soup in the world… assuming that it’s a soup and not a stew. What we do know is that roux-thickened, brown bowl of Louisiana gumbo, filled with thick slices of Andouille sausage, chicken or seafood, is one of the most quintessential eating experiences in America albeit with French, Creole and Native American influences.
Gumbo’s name traces back to the West African word for okra. But, in a typical twist of food evolution, not all Gumbos have okra. While some Gumbos are indeed thickened with the slimy green vegetable, others, in a nod to Choctaw influence, are thickened with file (a thickening powder from the American sassafras tree).
Pick your Gumbo passion – a food trip to the deep south is not the same without enjoying a heaping bowl of the stuff. Options include Duck Gumbo, Crab Gumbo, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and Gumbo z’Herbes, a (sort of) Vegetable Gumbo served on Friday during lent in Louisiana cities like New Orleans.
Discover more great things to eat in New Orleans.
29. Ciorba de Fasole (Romania)
We can’t say that we ate a lot of Romanian food before we visited Bucharest and Sibiu. However, we made up for lost time during two separate visits that added up to more than a month in the Central European country. Our favorite dishes included Mici (minced meat), Sarmale (cabbage rolls) and Ciorba de Fasole (bean soup).
Typical Ciorba de Fasole ingredients include white beans, carrots, celery, red pepper, onion and paprika. At the end of the day, it’s not so different from Hungary’s Bab Leves, another bean soup with an exotic-sounding name.
Discover four traditional food experiences in Transylvania.
30. Lanzhou Noodle Soup (China)
Industrious Chinese noodle makers invented Lanzhou noodles in Lanzhou where they still pull and manipulate piles of dough into silky strands. Eating these noodles in a bowl of soup is our personal version of noodle heaven.
We agreed to disagree every time we ate Lanzhou Noodle Soup in Philadelphia. Daryl always ordered traditional pulled noodles while Mindi always opted for thicker shaved noodles. However, we concurred with our assessment that both noodle options tasted great.
Discover the best restaurants in Philadelphia.
31. Turtle Soup (USA)
Popular in New Orleans where Cajun and Creole food rule the roost, Turtle Soup proves the age-old adage that most proteins taste like chicken. But make no mistake – the savory soup does indeed include turtle meat in its stock and as an ingredient.
Though rare in much of the country, the thick soup is a staple at upscale New Orleans restaurants and occasionally at select Philadelphia seafood restaurants (called Snapper Soup.) Plan to add a splash of fortified sherry when you eat Turtle Soup at iconic New Orleans restaurants like Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace.
32. Leberknödelsuppe (Germany)
Not everybody loves liver. But those who do (like Daryl) will want to try Leberknödelsuppe at least once in their lives. The name of this German soup literally translates to Liver Dumpling Soup and that’s exactly what it is – soup with liver dumplings. Besides its home country where it’s a German food favorite, the soup is also a popular meal starter in Austria and the Czech Republic.
Although Leberknödelsuppe has origins in Bavaria, we are yet to eat this soup in Germany. Instead, Daryl practically inhaled a bowl at a German-American restaurant in Buffalo. As for Mindi, she saved her appetite for Beef on Weck since she’s not a liver fan.
Discover more great food in Buffalo.
33. Udon (Japan)
If you confuse Udon with Ramen, you’re not far off the mark. Both soups feature wheat noodles originally introduced to Japan by China centuries ago. But make no mistake, Ramen and Udon are as different as they are similar.
For starters, udon noodles are thicker in size and whiter in appearance. They’re often served in a simple dashi broth, though other various iterations, both hot and cold, feature eggs, stewed meat, curry and even shrimp tempura.
While we ate Udon for breakfast at a popular Osaka fish market stall, the Japanese eat udon at all hours of the day and night. It’s a comforting, versatile soup with as many potential ingredients and toppings as the imagination allows.
Discover more great food in Osaka.
34. Clam Chowder (USA)
Though associated with New England, great clam soup or “chowder” is a hearty soup served throughout America’s eastern seaboard with one unifying factor – the clams themselves. New England Clam Chowder is a white, milky, creamy soup while Portuguese immigrants inspired the replacement of milk with tomatoes in the Manhattan version.
Daryl ate loads of Clam Chowder as a child with his family in Philadelphia. More of a tomato/cream hybrid which was so good that it still sticks in a corner of his mind, that style is apparently rooted in Long Island but we’re not entirely sure. As for Mindi, her favorite Clam Chowder was the classic New England version she ate at the historic Union Oyster House on Boston’s Freedom Trail.
Discover more great food in Boston.
35. Mulligatawny Soup (India)
Mulligatawny Soup first hit our radar in 1995 when we separately watched the Seinfeld episode that introduced the world to the Soup Nazi and his catch phrase “no soup for you.” It would be more than a decade before we met in 2006 and even longer until Mindi traveled to Mulligatawny’s homeland of India in 2018.
Mulligatawny Soup is a popular curry soup in India, a country with more than a billion people. Besides curry, the soup’s recipe includes a laundry list of ingredients like carrots, celery, apple, sweet potato, stock and rice. Not surprisingly since mulligatawny loosely translates to pepper water, both pepper and water are also on the ingredient list when cooks prepare Mulligatawny Soup in cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
Discover more great food in Delhi.
36. Soupe l’Oignon (France)
French Onion Soup is a French food favorite. However, it’s simply called Soupe l’Oignon (i.e. Onion Soup) in France. With inexpensive ingredients like onions, broth, cheese and bread, mothers prepare this soup to feed hungry families on cold winter days without spending a lot of money.
But families are the only ones who eat the savory soup topped with ooey-gooey cheese. Although Soupe l’Oignon is available in many corners of the world, eating a bowl at a traditional Paris bistro is a touristic activity that actually lives up to the hype.
Discover more great food in Paris.
37. Sopa de Tortilla (Mexico)
A lot of popular soups have amorphous origins while others trace back to Asian or European countries. Sopa de Tortilla (also known as Tortilla Soup) doesn’t fit into either of these categories. Instead, this flavorful soup has definitive North American roots.
Sopa de Tortilla is a soup staple in Mexico where its ingredients include chicken broth, chilies, tomatoes, avocado and cheese. Fried tortilla chips complete the soup, adding crunch to the soup’s deep flavors. We’ve eaten the Mexican soup starter in Mexico City as well as cities like Philadelpha and Montreal.
Discover more great food in Montreal.
38. Soba (Japan)
Soba literally translates to buckwheat and that’s exactly the type of noodle typically used in this soup. Made with buckwheat flour as advertised, soba noodles are both longer and thinner than ramen and udon noodles. Okinawa soba is an anomaly. Even though soba translates to ‘buckwheat’, the regional soup version features wheat noodles. Go figure.
Japanese restaurants serve soba noodles both hot and chilled in soups and with tsuyu dipping sauce. Simultaneously earthy and nutty, Soba proves that Ramen and Udon aren’t the only noodle soups worth eating in Japan.
39. Pappa al Pomodoro (Italy)
Nothing speaks to Italian culinary simplicity like Pappa al Pomodoro, a blend of bread and cooked tomatoes that some consider to be a vegetarian stew instead of a soup. We emphasize with the confusion since the texture of this Italian food favorite is closer to mushy baby food than it is to consummé.
But don’t blame this soup for having a thick texture. Instead, embrace the tastiness that comes from combining ingredients like Tuscan bread, tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil. We’ve eaten various versions at restaurants around Florence and each one has made us happy in its own tangy, mushy way.
Follow our Pappa al Pomodoro recipe and make the classic Tuscan tomato bread soup at home.
40. Kuay Tiaw Reua (Thailand)
Kuay Tiaw Reua a/k/a Boat Noodle Soup is a Thai noodle dish with a story. Although the dish is now served in Bangkok restaurants, Kuay Tiaw Reua was originally sold by vendors who sailed small boats along the city’s canals. Hence the name Boat Noodle Soup.
We first experienced the joy of eating Boat Noodle Soup during a half-day Bangkok street food tour. Despite its nautical roots, the thick soup has meat instead of seafood in addition to noodles and traditional Thai ingredients like dark soy sauce, morning glory and chili flakes.
Read about our Bangkok street food tour.
41. Hot and Sour Soup (China)
You’ll find three basic soup choices on most American Chinese menus: Wonton, Egg Drop and Hot and Sour. Growing up, we typically ordered Hot and Sour Soup when we were tired of Wonton Soup and wanted something more ‘authentically’ Chinese.
We started to doubt Hot and Sour Soup’s culinary veracity and suspected it to be a US invention. Surprisingly, according to Chinese Cooking Demystified, the soup has ties to both Wuxi, outside of Shanghai, and Hunan. Whatever the soup’s origin, Hot and Sour Soup never disappointed us on the coldest Philadelphia winter days.
So what makes the soup hot and sour? Actually, it’s a combination of Chinese black vinegar and a generous amount of white pepper. The soup’s melange of ingredients, aside from beef or chicken broth, makes the soup feel utterly Chinese. We’re talking about wood ear mushrooms, dried lily buds and soft tofu.
Although chili pepper has become a popular element in many Hot and Sour Soup recipes, white pepper is the original ingredient that added heat to Hot and Sour Soup.
42. Che (Vietnam)
Che is a Vietnamese dessert soup that we had never tried prior to our first Hanoi visit. To be honest, we were unclear what it was until we tasted the sweet soup in Hanoi. Served both hot and cold, Che can have a wide range of ingredients like mung beans, red beans, fruit and tapioca beads.
Visitors can sample different Che varieties at decades-old Che Ba Thin in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Our favorite was a hot sugar cane brew with a porridge-like texture and a strong ginger taste.
Discover more great food in Hanoi.
43. Yaka Mein (USA)
Yaka Mein sounds like it should be a Japanese soup. Instead, it’s a Cajun-Chinese food favorite in New Orleans that doubles as a local hangover remedy.
Crescent City cooks prepare Yaka Mein by adding beef and noodles to a salty broth before topping the fusion soup with chopped green onions and a hard boiled egg. Sometimes they go crazy and replace the beef with shrimp.
Discover a great spot to eat Yaka Mein in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood.
44. Kulajda (Czech Republic)
Czech soup called Kulajda isn’t as famous as the country’s Pilsner beer but maybe it should be. Originally eaten in Southern Bavaria and made with dill, mushrooms, sour cream and potatoes, the creamy soup gets its finishing touch from a quail egg.
Vaguely translated to ‘dill soup’ on the menu at Prague’s grand Cafe Imperial, Kulaida surprised us with its creamy sweet, sour, herbaceous flavors. It was nothing short of a luxurious, creamy bowl of Central European yumminess.
Discover the great food we ate during an epic Prague food tour.
45.Xiǎo Lóng Bāo (China)
Xiǎo Lóng Bāo isn’t your typical soup. In this Chinese food favorite, the soup is inside a dumpling instead of in a bowl. Most westerners, including us, refer to Xiǎo Lóng Bāo as Soup Dumplings.
Although Shanghai is known as the international headquarters for Xiǎo Lóng Bāo, Taipei can stake a claim to Soup Dumpling fame with Din Tai Fung. Open since 1972, the global restaurant chain started in Taipei and has been delicately forming some of the world’s best Soup Dumplings for over 40 years.
After eating Soup Dumplings in Shanghai and Taipei as well as in global cities like Bangkok and New York, we were hooked. We even deemed the juicy dumplings to be brothy nuggets of gold.
Buy a 5-Piece Chinese Soup Dumpling Kit from Amazon if you want to attempt making Xiǎo Lóng Bāo at home.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: March 28, 2021