Soup is a flavored liquid made with meat, vegetables, and stock. It is generally consumed hot or warm. But, some soups are made in unconventional ways. Some even use uncommon ingredients. These soups are called special or specialty soups. The soup can be cold and uncooked; examples of these are yogurt soups, gazpacho, salmorejo, and vichyssoise. In addition, a specialty soup doesn’t require any meat on it; it can be made with fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Some examples are peanut soup, coconut soup, turtle soup, and curry soup. Nevertheless, the state of Texas is known to two famous specialty soups or stews: gumbo and jambalaya.
Specialty Soup Trivia
- The United States celebrates National Gumbo Day every October 12th and National Gazpacho Day every December 6th.
- Ironically, the name gazpacho is of Arabic origin that means “soaked bread.”
- Leftover gazpacho is best turned into gazpacho cake.
- Americans consume more than 10 billion bowls of soup every year; women are twice as likely to order them as men.
- Texas is home to the Jambalaya music festival, eventually shortened to JMBLYA, one of the biggest multi-city hip-hop events in Texas which is celebrated in Houston, Austin, and Dallas every May since 2013. Its name links to the different mixes of musical genres that complement well with each other, resembling the Jambalaya’s mixtures of ingredients that blend great as well.
Specialty Soup Buying Guide
While it is best to make a specialty soup at home, it is possible to buy ready-made specialty soups that only need to be reheated before service. Campbell’s is one of the top sellers of canned gumbo and jambalaya soup but you can also find different brands such as Margaret Holmes Simple Suppers. Meanwhile, gazpachos and other specialty soups can also be made using its canned ingredients. Here are some tips when you are buying a commercially-prepared specialty soup:
- Check out the sodium content. The product should have less than 500mg of sodium per serving. Or better yet, opt for no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, or low-sodium.
- Look for the bad stuff. Preservatives, additives, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated oils can weaken your heart tissues and can contribute to weight gain. I’m sure you don’t want that.
- As always, look for a product with the least amount of ingredients. In addition, make sure that these ingredients are easy to pronounce.
Specialty Soup Production & Farming in Texas
While it is possible to buy ready-made specialty soups in large supermarkets such as H-E-B and Natural Grocers, the state of Texas also features countless numbers of restaurants that serve organic specialty soups. You may also visit nearby local farmers’ markets where they showcase local and good quality products. Or better yet, grab some fresh and local ingredients and create your own specialty soup at home – recipe can be found below. Nevertheless, Texans traditionally serve gazpacho with plenty of side dishes like fresh peppers, chopped onions, and sliced tomatoes, while gumbo is usually served alongside or on top of the rice. In jambalaya soup, rice is already mixed in the soup prior to service.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Store-bought specialty soup will never be our best choice. Not only that these commercially-produced products are hard to find, but they’re commonly watered-down and taste bland. Plus, they most likely contain additives and chemicals for a lower cost yet fast-producing and shelf-stable products. Here are some additives that we found on some specialty soup brands:
- Sodium – Although sodium is a natural food that balances our body fluids, it can cause harm when consumed past its RDA.
- Dextrose and Maltodextrin – It is a type of sugar that acts as an artificial sweetener, food neutralizer, and a preservative. Too much consumption of this ingredient can lead to body fluid build-up and high blood sugar.
- MSG – Monosodium Glutamate is used to enhance the flavor of almost any product. It is the one responsible for creating that umami flavor. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it can cause headaches, flushing, palpitations, sweating, nausea, numbness, and weakness to some people. It allegedly can cause asthma, brain damages, and even cancer; however, these allegations remained controversial.
- Natural and artificial flavorings – These are usually chemically-formulated products that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. Although they are labeled as such due to its very small quantitative participation in the product, it’s always a better option if we stay away from these ingredients. For specialty soups, some of which come in the following names: disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, disodium succinate, sodium phosphate, soy protein isolate, TBHQ, and alike.
- Yeast extracts – These are added as a flavor enhancer and possesses the same side effects just like MSG. You may want to avoid products with these ingredients especially if you have blood pressure problems or sodium-related concerns.
Specialty soups can be packaged in many different ways. Some come in small pouches or packets that just needs water to be added. Some also come in the form of traditional and easy-open cans and cartons. Local producers and artisan food vendors usually package their specialty soup in mason jars.
Enjoying Specialty Soups
Just like any other soup, a specialty soup can be eaten using a soup spoon or by holding the bowl closer to your mouth before you slurp it. Meanwhile, since cold soups can be served in a cocktail glass, you can eat it as if you’re drinking thick water. Nevertheless, cold soups are best enjoyed with bread on the side that you can either dip on the soup or just eat them alternately. Gumbo is best eaten on top of the rice.
Homemade specialty soup should be stored in an air-tight container such as a mason jar. It can last for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer. On the other hand, soups made by local producers and artisan vendors can be stored in the refrigerator for 7 days.
Make your own specialty soup:
Now that you’ve decided to make your own specialty soup at home, which by the way is the best choice, here is a quick Texan Gazpacho recipe that will surely satisfy you and your family:
- 1 whole poblano pepper
- 2 lbs tomatoes
- ½ red onion, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cucumber, seeded, peeled, roughly chopped (set aside ¼ cup)
- ¼ cup raw almonds
- 2 tbsps red wine vinegar
- 7 tbsps olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 medium eggs
- 4 thick slices of stale bread, sliced into half-inch cubes
- Preheat the oven to 400 ºF.
- On a stovetop, char the poblano pepper by placing it directly on fire until it turns black. Place it in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and let it steam for 10 minutes. Scrape the black bits off, cut off the top part, slice the pepper in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Place the sliced pepper in a blender or food processor.
- Poach the tomatoes by making a couple of incisions at the bottom of the tomatoes and dropping them into boiling water for 30 seconds. Afterwhich, take it out and peel off the skin. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the poblano peppers.
- Add the onion, garlic clove, cucumber (do not include the ¼ cup), almonds, red wine vinegar, and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Blend or purée until homogenized. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl or an airtight container, let it cool down to room temperature, and finally chill it.
- Meanwhile, hardboil the eggs for 15 to 20 minutes. While the eggs are cooking, toss the bread with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Lay them on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until it’s light brown and crispy. While it’s baking, check the hardboiled eggs. If it’s done, run it on cold water or ice bath to reduce the temperature and keep them in the refrigerator until service. Keep the croutons or baked bread in a ziplock bag until service.
- To serve, divide the chilled gazpacho soup into four bowls. Peel and roughly chop the eggs, then top it to the soup. Garnish with the remaining cucumber and sprinkle with some croutons and chopped almonds. Drizzle with olive oil for that final embellishment.