Magic In A Bowl

12 delectable soup offerings that await your spoon

Last weekend, I made chicken tortilla soup. What a treat to lap up that first cheesy bite, savoring the chile spice along with the crunch of the tortilla strips. The next bite yielded black beans, onions and cilantro, drenched in the spicy sauce. It was filling and delicious; we needed little else for dinner except a mug of beer.

Soups are a meal in bowl, seemingly so simple that one might think of them as forgettable appetizers or uncomplicated dishes not worthy of study. One would be wrong.

And here is why: All good soups begin with a delicious stock or broth. Making this essential ingredient from scratch takes time and should be undertaken on a different day of the week! Hopefully, you either have a pre-made broth you can pull from your freezer or you’re OK with store-bought.

Once you have stock, it’s go-time. In your soup pan, heat up oil or fat (butter, olive oil or coconut oil) and add aromatics (onions, celery or fennel) and herbs and spices (cumin or garlic). Then deglaze (are you remembering to deglaze? It’s easy to forget that step) with a small amount of broth, wine or tamari. Let the liquid reduce by half to concentrate the flavor.

Add the main ingredients (veggies, legumes, tofu, meat) and let them mingle with the aromatics and cook together. Add stock or broth, bring to a boil, then simmer until the ingredients are cooked to perfection. Finish with salt, herbs and garnishes.

Making soup sounds so simple, yet it can feel rather arduous by the time it’s ready. No wonder we let soup simmer for hours. We need the rest.

Another option is to go out and order hearty soups, stews, bisques and chowders prepared by the pros. Salt Lake boasts a number of soup and salad eateries as well as restaurants known for that one incredible soup everyone raves about. Here are 12 favorites that the Devour staff picked out to get you started on your quest for souper stars. (Jerre Wroble)

Nordstrom Café Bistro: Roma Tomato Bisque
Available by the cup or bowl, accompanied with a garlic crouton, Roma tomato basil bisque is served every Wednesday at the Bistro Café at Nordstrom in Fashion Place Mall in Murray. It’s been on the menu for years (at least since 1994, when this writer became addicted to it), and chef Jeremy Matthews doesn’t see it ever leaving. It’s been updated as time and tastes have progressed and is completely vegetarian now. It’s no wonder that tomato soup has a place in everyone’s heart. It’s comforting and speaks to the kid in all of us, and can be nicely paired with a grilled cheese sandwich.
The Nordstrom tomato bisque, however, is no run-of-the-mill tomato soup. According to Matthews, Nordy’s soup is made in-house in the morning, built in layers and developing flavor as it cooks. He starts by caramelizing onions and carrots to extract their sugars. The sweetness of the root vegetables helps balance the natural acidity of the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes and basil are added, they all simmer together for hours, concentrating the tomatoes’ flavors. Finally, sweet cream is blended into the soup, finishing off with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. The result is sweet and balanced with a rich, warm depth to the flavor. It’s perfect for fall—and any season, really. The soup is also available in jars for sale in the restaurant. It makes a wonderful gift or just a great item to stock on your shelf for a night when you’re not up to cooking. (Rebecca Ory Hernandez)

Fashion Place Mall
6191 S. State, Murray

Bambara Silky Corn Bisque
Throughout the years and during the reigns of various Bambara chefs, the silky corn bisque is one of few dishes that’s remained a staple since the restaurant’s inception. Under the watchful eyes of executive sous chef Jerry Pacheco, the bisque remains cemented on the menu as a stand-out among the establishment’s many stellar offerings. The smooth and creamy corn bisque—passed through a sieve to achieve its impeccably refined texture—is made with carrots, peppers, chicken stock and sherry, and carries a savory, mild heat that’s perfectly complemented by the lump Jonah crab on top. For first-time diners, it’s an appetizer that might just be the star of your entire meal, and you’ll understand why there might be a riot should the bisque ever drop off the menu. (Kate Pappas)

202 S. Main, SLC

Lettuce & Ladles Split Pea Soup
The split pea soup at Lettuce & Ladles is a creamy, comforting blend of ingredients— subtle bites of smoky ham, morsels of fresh carrots and hints of zesty cumin, savory bacon, garlic and black pepper. The flavor is further enlivened by a chicken stock base and onions added toward the end of preparation. “The recipe has been in our family for years,” chef Mario Lugo says. He assembles the split pea soup from scratch, cooking the ingredients for three hours to create this delicious, revitalizing combination. With a smooth texture and hearty mouth feel, the soup is also good for you—it’s both fiber- and nutrient-rich. Lettuce & Ladles offers a choice of four housemade soups daily: farmer’s vegetable, chicken noodle and broccoli cheese are often among featured selections.
Pair the soup with a sandwich such as a Monte Cristo or turkey cranberry, select a prepared salad, visit the salad bar or decide on a hamburger with fries. Sugar cookies, cakes and brownies round out the visit to Comfort Food Central. (Carolyn Campbell)

2268 E. 3300 South, SLC

Thai Delight Tom Kha Gai
For 17 years, the Tranngoc family has served their mouthwatering recipes at Thai Delight, their family-owned eatery in West Jordan. Family matriarch Lae Tranngoc remembers many customers after a single visit and invites them back to order their favorite dishes.
She oversees the creation of every entrée and roasts peppers to make her own garlic chile oil that’s a key ingredient in the flavorful and refreshing tom kha gai, a creamy, coconut chicken soup enhanced with lime, cilantro, green onions, straw mushrooms, bay leaves and lemon grass.
“It’s a good balance of all the ingredients—a blend of sweet and spicy with a little heat. Add fluffy jasmine rice, and it turns into comfort food,” says Win Tranngoc, whose parents “carried me into the United States from their native Laos when I was 2 weeks old.”
He encourages diners to dial their own spice level from mild to spicy before the soup is presented in a stainless-steel fire pot that maintains the flavor-enhancing heat throughout the meal. The soup can be the star player or can be accompanied by pot stickers, pad thai noodles or a massaman curry dish. Let the textures and spices lift and restore your spirits. (Carolyn Campbell)

6271 South Dixie Road
West Jordan

Tosh’s Curry Ramen
Don’t confuse today’s restaurant-quality ramen with the dirt-cheap instant noodles packaged in cellophane and sold to starving college students. Today’s ramen is a whole new kettle of noodles. Toshio Sekikawa, owner and executive chef of Tosh’s Ramen, orders custom-made ramen noodles from a California factory. He offers five flavors of delectable premium ramen, such as fresh chicken, vegetarian and pork.
Curry ramen is a Japanese soup accentuated by two kinds of pork—tender pork tenderloin prepared in a breaded panko and fall-apart chashu pork belly cooked in a medium-spiced curry broth. A soft-boiled egg adds a delightful texture variation. Add shiitake mushrooms for more flavor.
Sekikawa simmers the shiitake mushrooms for several hours in a solution of soy sauce, sugar and sake—“lots of sake,” he says.
The ramen noodles themselves are prepared to the perfect consistency—firm enough to hold their shape but tender enough to melt in your mouth.
Sekikawa began his culinary career nearly 40 years ago by cooking in a French restaurant in Tokyo. Today, when diners choose to pair their ramen with gyoza, or pot stickers, he prepares the “skin” by hand using flour, water and salt before adding the delicious fillings made with ground pork, Chinese chives, onion and Chinese cabbage. The Frenched, lightly floured and deep-fried Tokyo wings are another great side choice. (Carolyn Campbell)

1465 S. State, SLC
1963 E. Murray Holladay Road, SLC

Yoko’s Karaage Tenders Ramen
With six ramen choices, Yoko Ramen’s menu is simple. And like the menu, this unique chicken ramen is able to accomplish a whole lot with what looks like very little. At $11, the karaage ramen comes in a heaping bowl—not only stuffed with flavorful broth and perfectly cooked noodles, but with some of the best fried chicken ever to grace a ramen bowl. The chicken has just the right amount of crunch to hold its own after being dunked in broth, and the powerful flavor could make it a stand-alone dish. Karaage simply means “deep fried” in Japanese. However, once again, what looks simple is actually so much more. The special process simultaneously produces a juicy piece of chicken with a crunchy exterior. For those not as chicken-obsessed as this writer, this bowl also includes veggies, an expertly soft-boiled egg and a sprinkle of saffron to pull all the flavors together. A work of art, you might say. (Anna Kaser)

473 E. 300 South, SLC

Porcupine Pub & Grille Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
Porcupine’s creamy chicken noodle soup is—dare we say it—even better than your grandma’s (please don’t tell her). You will have dreams about this soup. With a thick flavorful broth, chunks of perfectly cooked chicken and housemade noodles, it’s the perfect meal for any rainy/snowy fall day. Now for the bad news: Porcupine restricts the purchase of this soup until “real” soup weather. Addicts can only buy their chicken noodle soup on Wednesdays throughout the warmer months. However, once November 1 hits, you can get a cup or bowl (or possibly a quart?) every day of the week. The soup pairs deliciously with Porcupine’s warm housemade rolls (request extra to mop up every last drop). Whether it’s Wednesday in July or a frosty Sunday in November, this chicken noodle soup will bring you back to the comfort of childhood. (Anna Kaser)

3698 E. Fort Union Blvd.
Cottonwood Heights

It’s Tofu Kimchi and Beef Tofu Stew
Chef Kevin Kim and his wife, Elisa, have brought their traditional Korean favorites to Cottonwood Heights. Their tofu stew is served steaming hot, with the spice level of your choosing: white, mild, medium, spicy, extra spicy, double extra-spicy or triple extra-spicy. (Imagine smoke coming out of your ears at that last level.) Spice is controlled by the housemade pepper paste made with gochujang-serrano peppers, added to increase heat subtly, while Korean peppers bring the gusto. This bowl of comfort food has the characteristics of both a soup with a hearty broth and a stew, as it’s loaded with pieces of beef, chunks of silky tofu, a smattering of kimchi, and you can add an egg for authenticity. All four types of tofu stew are served with rice and traditional side dishes of kimchi, tangy radishes, room-temperature potatoes dressed in a sweet syrup and spicy cucumbers. (Aimee L. Cook)

6949 S. 1300 East, Cottonwood Heights

Kyoto Japanese Restaurant Nabeyaki Udon
Udon is a traditional noodle soup in Japan and has been a staple on the menu at Kyoto since it opened in 1984. A light fish stock mixed with mirin, sugar and soy sauce make up the broth (aka dashi) that’s the subtle backdrop for wide pillowy wheat noodles. The nabeyaki udon is accompanied by portions of chicken, seafood, tempura, ebi, vegetables and egg—so many tasty things in one warm bowl. (Ask for some Ichimi togarashi, or Japanese red pepper flakes, if you want to add spice and enhance the flavors.) While perhaps not as bold in flavor as the ramen offerings, udon might be healthier due to its less-salty broth. It makes for a great starter to share or can be hearty enough to stand alone as a meal. In addition to the nabeyaki udon, Kyoto offers three other udon dishes for you to feast upon: tempura (shrimp), beef and oyako (chicken, egg and veggies). (Aimee L. Cook)\

1080 E. 1300 South, SLC

All Chay Pho
All Chay, a Vietnamese restaurant in Rose Park, has been serving up vegan versions of traditional Vietnamese fare since 2015, showing no signs of slowing down. Owners Kim Hoa Nguyen and her brother, Binh, have created a cult-like following for their vegan pho. There is a remarkable depth of flavor in the broth.
Pho is usually made by simmering beef bones and oxtails with onion, ginger and spices. All Chay’s vegan version is made with fruit and vegetables. Until you bite into a piece of soy-based meat or tofu, you likely couldn’t tell this pho is vegan. The appeal of the rich, flavorful broth is felt by omnivores—it’s really that good.
Served with rice noodles, strips of vegetarian ham and beef, and fried tofu, this pho is a nourishing meal. A small plate of fresh basil, cilantro, bean sprouts and fresh lime encourage you to play with the flavor. Don’t forget a squiggle of Sriracha or a dollop of sweet hoisin sauce. Order the lunch special for a few bucks more and get crunchy egg rolls and a can of soda to round out your meal. (Amanda Rock)

1264 W. 500 North, SLC

Bonus Round: Additional vegan pho recommended by Amanda Rock

Veggie House Pho Noodle 

Salt Lake City’s only vegan Asian restaurant offers an array of tempting dishes. One of the most popular options at Veggie House is the Pho Noodle soup. The mild, savory broth imbued with earthy mushrooms takes a back seat to the bounty of vegetables, delicious faux meats, and oodles of rice noodles. You’ll find a healthy serving of cauliflower, broccoli, daikon, and mushrooms in this soup. Veggie House is known for offering a variety of tasty vegan meats for your entrees. Choose your protein: there’s vegan shrimp, chicken, and beef. If you can’t decide, pay $1 more to combine them. Personalize your pho with jalapeños, crunchy bean sprouts, and a squeeze of fresh lime. You won’t find a more hearty and satisfying vegan pho. Be sure to get a loyalty card stamped for a free meal after you buy nine, I promise you’ll be back. (Amanda Rock)

52 E. 1700 South, SLC, 801-282-8686; 

Oh Mai Pho Chay 

Four locations of the casual Vietnamese restaurant, Oh Mai, have popped up all over the Wasatch Front in the past few years. Serving Bahn Mi sandwiches, along with other traditional dishes, they’ve introduced many of us to Vietnamese fare. Their pho has become synonymous with warm, cozy, comfort food. And lucky for us, they offer a vegan version. The heady aroma of star anise, ginger, and cinnamon hit your senses as the soup is placed in front of you. Rice noodles, generous slices of tofu, and vibrant green bok choy provide the substance – their mild flavors give you a fantastic excuse to party with accoutrements. Be generous with the fresh Thai basil, long slices of jalapeno, and bean sprouts. A heavy hand with Sriracha and hoisin is also recommended. Squeeze every last drop from that slice of lime. You’ll have a satisfying and nourishing meal. If you’re not feeling well (mentally or physically), this soup will revive you. (Amanda Rock)

Multiple locations, 

The Charleston Draper Brazilian Fish Stew
Been dazzled by Draper much? Here’s your chance to be. Executive chef Marco Silva and entrepreneur Steve Cappellucci have created an appealing restaurant in Draper in a beautifully restored two-story brick house built by one of Draper’s first pioneers in 1878. This quaint backdrop is a setting for an impressive international cuisine that features not only casual lunch offerings such as homemade soups, salads and paninis, but evening fine-dining entrees that include steaks, salmon, coq au vin and a formidable Brazilian fish stew. Fish-lovers will relish the large chunks of sautéed white and shellfish combined with peppers and onions in a creamy coconut milk and lemon juice sauce that’s topped with fresh coriander. Come hungry. (Derek Carlisle)

1229 E. Pioneer Road, Draper

Cafe Zupas Roasted Red Pepper & Lobster
No self-respecting local soup issue would be complete without a nod to Utah’s own Cafe Zupas, founded in 2004 in Provo by Rob Seely and Dustin Schulties—two food lovers with backgrounds in the software industry. The two set about to cash in the “fast casual” restaurant trend, creating—with their technological prowess—efficient systems for offering quality food in a comfortable setting. Most Cafe Zupas are bright and airy establishments with a view of the kitchen so diners can watch food being prepared. The chain now boasts over 50 restaurants across eight states (21 in Utah). The manager assures me that all soups are made from scratch daily using fresh ingredients listed on the menu. “We do add a prepared packet of spices to each soup,” she said. “They’re secret and what set our soups apart.” Cafe Zupas most popular soups are the creamier ones: tomato basil, Wisconsin cauliflower and mushroom bisque. But when it comes to creamy, it’s hard to beat the red pepper and lobster soup, a thick soup made with roasted sweet red peppers and chunks of real lobster. At $6.79 for a large bowl, it’s the decadence that most penny pinchers only dream of. (Jerre Wroble)

Multiple locations

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