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Cooking | Magazine

Recipes: Three comforting soups for an unsettling time

A chicken soup from Korea and a potato soup from South America make for a bowl full of bold flavors.

Korean chicken and vegetable soup with cellophane noodles.
Korean chicken and vegetable soup with cellophane noodles.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Cooks around the world rely on potent ingredients — rather than a lot of time and effort — to build soups that are as comforting as they are boldly flavorful. In Korea, a chicken soup called Andong jjimdak is loaded with cellophane noodles in a sweet-and-spicy, soy-flavored broth that’s amped up with gochujang. In South America, locro de papas is a hearty potato-bell pepper soup laced with cumin and paprika, which we lighten by eliminating some of the dairy. And in Iran, fresh herbs, caramelized onions, and tangy yogurt lend flavor and body to a brothy crock of chickpeas and Arborio rice.

Korean Chicken and Vegetable Soup With Cellophane Noodles

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Makes 4 servings

This Korean-inspired soup features a balanced salty-sweet-mildly spicy broth. It gets its heat and a dose of umami from gochujang, a fermented chili paste; look for it in the international aisle of most grocery stores. If you can’t find gochujang, Asian-chili garlic sauce is a reasonable substitute. Sprinkle the soup with toasted sesame seeds before serving and, if you like, offer steamed rice on the side.

Trim the noodles after soaking and draining. Cellophane noodles are usually extremely long and will clump in a knot in thepot otherwise.

⅓ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons mirin

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons gochujang

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces

3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into ½-inch pieces

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed, caps quartered

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced, dark green parts cut into 1-inch lengths, reserved separately

3 ounces cellophane noodles

Kosher salt

In a large pot over medium, combine the soy, mirin, sugar, and gochujang, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the chicken, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, the white and light green scallions, and 1 quart water. Bring to a gentle boil over high, then cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat to maintain a simmer, until the carrots are tender and the chicken is cooked, 10 to 15 minutes.

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Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, soak the noodles in warm water until soft and pliable, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, then use kitchen shears to snip into shorter lengths.

Stir the noodles into the pot. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the noodles are completely tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt, then stir in the scallion greens.

Paprika-Cumin Potato and Bell Pepper Soup

Makes 6 servings

Paprika-cumin potato and bell pepper soup.
Paprika-cumin potato and bell pepper soup.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Variations of this humble yet elegant soup (loco de papas) are found in both Ecuador and Peru. For richness, it often is made with both milk and cheese, but we skip most of the dairy to keep the flavors lighter and fresher, adding queso fresco only as a garnish. Locro do papas gets its yellow-orange hue from annatto seeds (also called achiote), but we achieve a similar color by using red or orange bell peppers and a good measure of sweet paprika.

Potato skins add an earthiness that complements the other flavors, so skip peeling. If using a conventional blender, allow the potato mixture to cool for about 10 minutes before pureeing and puree it in batches.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced

3 red or orange bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced

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1 bunch cilantro, chopped, stems and leaves reserved separately

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts reserved separately

6 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth or water

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons lime juice

Crumbled or grated queso fresco, to serve

Diced avocado, to serve

In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, bell peppers, cilantro stems, and scallion whites. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 6 to 9 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, and cumin, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the potatoes, broth, and 1 tablespoon salt.

Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to low and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until a skewer inserted into the potatoes meets no resistance, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for about 10 minutes.

Using a blender and working in batches, puree the mixture until completely smooth. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender and puree directly in the pot.) Return the soup to the pot and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Off heat, stir in the lime juice, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup topped with the cilantro leaves, scallion greens, queso fresco, and avocado.

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Chickpea and Yogurt Soup

Makes 4 servings

Chickpea and yogurt soup.
Chickpea and yogurt soup.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Regular whole-milk yogurt — not Greek-style — gave a pleasant richness and tang to this soup inspired by a weeknight meal from Iranian cookbook author Yasmin Khan. Be sure to whisk the yogurt into the soup off the heat; it will break and curdle if the liquid is too hot. We liked the balanced heat from ¾ teaspoon of red pepper flakes, but for a milder dish, decrease it to ½ teaspoon. For a heartier soup, stir in a few handfuls of baby arugula before removing the pot from the heat. Khan prefers this soup seasoned with dried mint and chives, but we found the dill and parsley added plenty of flavor.

Arborio rice helps the soup develop its silk texture; substituting long-grain rice would change the texture.

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 tablespoons salted butter

Kosher salt

½ cup Arborio rice

4 garlic cloves, finely grated

¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1 cup whole-milk yogurt

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Ground black pepper

In a 2-quart saucepan over medium, combine the onion, butter, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and browned around the edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the rice, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broth and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.

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Add the chickpeas, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is very soft and the soup has thickened, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in the yogurt, parsley, and dill. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.