Tortilla soup, a Mexican favorite that’s becoming more popular in the U.S. Photo courtesy Frontier Soups, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.




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April 2010

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Soups & Stocks

Soup Types: T To Z

Page 6: Tortilla Soup To Wonton Soup


This is Page 6 of a six-page soup glossary. It features tortilla soup, velouté, winter melon soup, wonton soup and other soup-related terms from T to Z. There are thousands of soups in the world’s cuisines; terms featured are soups likely to be found in the U.S. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.



Starch thickeners are used to give body to vegetable soups. Arrowroot is elegant, but the most expensive of the group. Cornstarch goes in the other direction—inexpensive, and it adds a nice gloss to the soup (that’s why Chinese soups are so glossy). Flour is a classic thickener, but add too much and the soup tastes floury. We have to mention blood (the blood of the animal whose meat is used), which has been a classic thickener since the dawn of cooking—but not in the U.S. Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include rice and grain. Bisques are made from puréed shellfish, fruit or vegetables thickened with cream. Cream soups are thickened with béchamel sauce. Veloutés, the richest soups, are thickened with eggs, butter and cream.


A Mexican specialty; think of a chicken enchilada turned into a soup of succulent chicken and sweet corn, topped with crunch tortilla chips. Here’s a recipe.


The richest, thickest soup of all, velouté is a broth—usually chicken or shellfish—thickened with eggs, butter and cream. Velouté, meaning velvety, is the adjectival form of the French word for velvet, velour.

Tortilla soup. Photo courtesy Cabot Creamery.

Vichyssoise (pronounced vee-shee-SWAZ) is a cold potentate and leek soup, served in hot weather. It was invented at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City in 1917, by Louis Diat, a French chef born in a town near Vichy, based on a potato and leek soup of his childhood that he would cool it off during the summer by pouring in cold milk. The soup was first called Crème Vichyssoise Glacée. Culinary historians point out that the French chef Jules Gouffé published a similar recipe with potatoes, leeks, chicken stock and cream, in Royal Cookery, in 1869, but did not serve it cold. Here’s the recipe and more history of the dish.


Photo courtesy

Chinese winter melon soup is a savory soup with a chicken or vegetable stock base, shiitake mushrooms, green onions and ham. Like the tomato, the winter melon is a botanical fruit, but by flavor profile, it is a vegetable. While the melon is simmered in the stock, winter melon soup can be an elaborate presentation with the soup presented inside a whole winter melon that has been steamed for hours. The skin is decoratively cut, so that what is presented is a decorative centerpiece, smaller than a medicine ball, larger than a soccer ball, filled with soup. The flesh of the melon is scooped out with the soup. You can find a recipe at

  Winter Melon Soup
Chinese Winter Melon Soup. Photo courtesy

A Cantonese cuisine favorite, wonton refers to the dumpling in the soup. The dumplings are typically boiled and filled with minced pork, but there are regional variations. Many restaurants that include the soup as part of the meal serve a minimalist wonton—the broth, a few dumplings and sliced green onions. But a fully-packed bowl of soup can included noodles, bok choy, slices of chicken, shrimp and anything that appeals to the culinary sense of the chef.

Wonton Soup. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

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