The Soups of Mexico

Some say the soul of Mexico is in its soups

By Patricia Quintana

Published on August 1, 2012

There are so many ways to get to know Mexico, but for me, the country is best understood through its soups. We're ancient: Every home cook here has a recipe for caldo Xochitl con flor de calabaza, a squash-blossom soup named for the Aztec goddess of flowers that harks back to when the capital city was still known as Tenochtitlan. We're authentic: Regional soups like sopa fria de aguacate, a serrano chile-spiked cold avocado soup from the south Pacific coast, make the most of the distinct flavors, ingredients, and cooking styles specific to each state. (Even national favorites, like the bean soup sopa de frijol, evolve as you traverse the country: It's made with pintos in the north, black beans in the south.) We're international: One of the country's most beloved soups, sopa de fideo, fine pasta noodles in a rich tomato broth, was born of Italian immigration to Mexico; a vichyssoise-like potato and leek soup, meanwhile, nods to France. We're cosmopolitan: At restaurants in Mexico City, chefs outdo one another with elegant soups like sopa de chile ancho, a silken broth of pan-toasted, pureed chiles that is garnished with crisp-fried tortilla strips, julienned pasilla chile, a drizzle of crema, and slivers of avocado. No matter where you are, a meal isn't really a meal without soup—whether it's the warming consome served at the beginning of a meal, or the brothy pinto beans that round it out—and here, soup can even be found in the streets. Some say the soul of Mexico is in the soups of the streets and the markets, where vendors sell homespun brews from their stalls, ladling out caldo de res, a hearty beef stew, topped with a confetti of cilantro and chopped raw onion. In Mexico, soups are basic. They comfort. They put us at ease and nourish our souls. They sustain us, and wherever we find ourselves, once a bowl of soup is in our hands, we're home. —Patricia Quintana, chef-owner of Izote in Mexico City, and author of The Taste of Mexico (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1986)

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