5 Soups to Keep You Warm This Winter 

click to enlarge LIZ WARBURTON
  • Liz Warburton

Fragrant broths, velvety purees, chunky stews, rough-cut veggies and buttery, eclectic combinations of sea creatures all have a place in the landscape of soups. We revisited our favorite soups along with a few new ones, and we're sharing recipes for some and places to get your fill for others. From hominy-filled pozole to herb-packed tom yum, warm your bones this winter season with one of these unique bowls.

Pho Ha Long's Pho

Find it at 6424 NW Loop 410, (210) 521-4507

A perennial contender for Best Vietnamese restaurant in our Best of San Antonio issue, Pho Ha Long's found a secret formula for keeping Alamo City slurpers happy. It could be the accoutrement plate with snappy bean sprouts, thick jalapeño slices, juicy quartered limes and finely shredded cabbage that's ready for piling into your bowl (medium should be more than enough, but the large is also an option for more ravenous appetites, and the broth does reheat well).

Maybe it's the clean, fresh cuts of meat that come with every bowl of pho — flank, round eye steak, brisket, skirt, tripe, tendon or meatball. We're partial to the No. 10 with round eye steak, lean flank and chewy tendon, but if you're looking for a spicy variation, dining companions recommend the No. 45 bún bò huê with spicy beef soup and a combination that's not for the faint of stomach — sliced beef, pork, slightly metallic pig blood curd and handsome pig's foot for chewing on.

Or maybe it's the broth, which makes it to the table at just the right temperature and ready for diving in. One spoonful soothes just about any worry or case of the sniffles. Head here when nothing else will do during cedar season.

Where to get your fix:

Pho Sure
741 W. Ashby Pl., (210) 733-8473, pho-sure.com

Heavenly Pho
19178 Blanco Road, #305, (210) 545-3553, heavenlypho.com

Pho Thien An
126 W. Rector, #108, (210) 348-8526, phothienansa.com

Viva Pho
2114 NW Military Hwy., (210) 525-8388, vivapho.com

Pho Cong Ly
300 W. Bitters Road, Suite 115, (210) 499-5572

click to enlarge LIZ WARBURTON
  • Liz Warburton

Saeb Thai's Tom Yum

Find it at 226 W. Bitters Road, Suite 124, (210) 545-3354, saebthainoodlesa.com

There are tons of toms around town, but one of the best is at Saeb Thai and Noodle in Embassy Oaks, where a small bowl will set you back $3.95 with tofu, chicken or shrimp. This is a simple soup relying on aromatics such as lemongrass, kaffir or makrut lime leaves, and galangal (a cousin of ginger, which can be substituted) for most of its exotic, citrusy appeal. Chili paste, halved button mushrooms, tomato and cilantro round out the flavor profile. The heat level is probably just high enough at Saeb, though masochists may want to add just a tiny spoonful of the house's sour/hot fish sauce to Thai up the taste. You will be left with the inedible flotsam and jetsam that is the lime leaf and lemongrass (don't fear eating the sliced galangal/ginger — though that's optional) in the bottom of the bowl. Resist the urge to chew on these. The following is a recipe adapted from Tyler (Thai-ler?) Florence.

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, sliced on a bias in 2-inch pieces
  • 4 kaffir (makrut) lime leaves or more to taste
  • 1-inch piece fresh galangal or ginger, sliced (no need to peel)
  • 2 serrano chiles, sliced (and seeded if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, such as nam pla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 (8-ounce) can straw mushrooms, rinsed, or fresh button mushrooms, halved
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled with tails left on
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped (thick stems discarded)

Directions:

Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal or ginger and chiles. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes to let the spices infuse the broth.

Uncover and add the fish sauce, sugar and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in the shrimp and cook for about 8 minutes until they turn pink. Remove from heat and add the lime juice, green onions and cilantro. Taste for salt and spices, adjusting as needed to achieve a balance of spicy, salty and sour.

click to enlarge LIZ WARBURTON
  • Liz Warburton

Rosario's Pozole

Find it at Multiple locations, rosariossa.com

If menudo keeps folks at bay with its use of tripe and cow stomach, pozole is perhaps the easier one to swallow for some (though we'll never turn away a bowl of the stuff). For this pork-based soup turn to Rosario's Mexican Café y Cantina.

Unlike other shops in town that save this hearty stew for the weekend, you can ladle a bowl of this fiery but delicate pozole whenever you damn well please.

Guajillo chiles give this particular pozole, found daily at both locations of this SA favorite, its crimson red hue. Pork butt is the star of the show, but the broth also shines with its use of dried oregano, onion and a whole head of garlic. It certainly doesn't skimp on the layers of flavor.

When the temperatures drop this winter, head to Rosario's and pile on the garnishes — fresh cabbage, cilantro, tortilla chips, radishes, scallions — and don't forget the lime to help cut the soup's richness.

Grab a bowl here:

Cascabel Mexican Patio
1000 S. St. Mary's St., (210) 212-6456

Lisa's Mexican Restaurant
815 Bandera Road, (210) 433-2531, lisasmexican.com

Guajillo's - The Shortcut To Mexico
1001 NW Loop 410,, (210) 344-4119, guajillos.com

Mary Lou's Café
4405 McCullough Ave., (210) 396-7909

Vida Mia Cuisine
19141 Stone Oak Pkwy., #803, (210) 490-2011, vidamiacuisine.com

New location opening at Bulverde Road soon

click to enlarge LIZ WARBURTON
  • Liz Warburton

El Mirador's Sopa Tarasca

Like with most soups, recipes for this particularly velvety soup vary. Though some use white beans, Doña Mari at El Mirador fills up her pot with pinto beans (similar to those used in the restaurant's entomatadas). For this staple that hails from the Mexican state of Michoacán, you'll want to make a trip to your local La Michoacana in search of ancho chiles, chiles de árbol, epazote and queso fresco (pick up totopos, or tortilla chips, from Sanitary Tortillas, 623 Urban Loop). Once ingredients are procured, get to work on this multi-step recipe and put just about every pot and pan to use. The result will be a smoky, homey and delicious bowl you'll want to duplicate through the winter months.

Or just head to El Mirador — no pots and pans required.

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 pounds tomato
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ stalk epazote
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 chiles anchos
  • 3 chiles de árbol
  • 4 ounces chipotle en adobo, blended
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 pounds pinto beans, cooked and pureed
  • Salt, to taste
  • Crema, to taste
  • Queso fresco, for garnish
  • Totopos, for garnish
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal or ginger and chiles. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes to let the spices infuse the broth.

Uncover and add the fish sauce, sugar and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in the shrimp and cook for about 8 minutes until they turn pink. Remove from heat and add the lime juice, green onions and cilantro. Taste for salt and spices, adjusting as needed to achieve a balance of spicy, salty and sour.

click to enlarge DAN PAYTON
  • Dan Payton

Shuck Shack's Oystah Chowdah

Find it at 520 E. Grayson St., (210) 236-7422, shuckshack.com

A brief rant: Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, livin' la vida locavore was simply what we did — long before the term became overused. Gardens were planted, wild mushrooms were gathered ... and, with attention to tide charts, clams were dug from a bay no more than 15 minutes away. Oysters we would often pick from rocks and toss onto a driftwood fire to pop open. But when my mother needed more than we could easily harvest, the local oyster farm was there to oblige: freshness assured, oyster stew on its way.

Chowdah? Nevah? We were Northwest, not Down East. But Jason Dady's recipe is amazingly close to my mother's nonetheless. It's buttery, it's not tricked out with unnecessary ingredients (except maybe bell pepper), and it tastes of oyster, plain and simple. Dady also does an orthographically unaffected, milk-based clam chowder. Here, there are clams in the shell, there is lots of smoky bacon, and the result is really more bacon-y than, er, clam-y. Yet it's still good. Below is a recipe, adapted from Emeril Lagasse, that proves that East Coast, West Coast, Third Coast, a simple recipe spans shores.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 dozen oysters, shucked and with liquor reserved
  • (feel free to use a jar of fresh Gulf oysters)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne, to taste (we never used cayenne, but you should)
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic (optional, but recommended)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

Directions:

In a large sauté pan, melt the 4 tablespoons butter, stir in the flour and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add onions and celery and cook two minutes more. Stir in the milk and the oyster liquid. Season with salt, a few grinds black pepper and a whisper of cayenne. Bring the liquid up to simmer and keep it there 3 to 4 minutes. Add oysters, garlic and parsley, bring back to a simmer and cook until the oysters curl at the edges — 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, remove from heat immediately and ladle into 4 soup bowls. Some more parsley sprinkled on top wouldn’t hurt.


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