Super Soups: Unusual Ingredients That Take Soup Making to the Next Level

Are you looking to make your soup more original? Are you willing to suspend judgment and go outside your ingredient comfort zone? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then this blog is definitely for you.

We will be exploring unique and exotic ingredients that are used in soups around the world, and the importance of being open to experimenting with them when creating your own pots. Be warned that some of the ingredients may seem extreme in comparison to the usual soup fixings like celery and thyme. But keep in mind that just because you have yet to experience them, doesn’t mean that they aren’t perfectly safe and delicious.

So, if you’re up for a souper new experience, we invite you to step out of the ordinary and prepare for the extraordinary.

Exotic Spices

Let’s face it, spices can make or break a soup. It takes just the right combination and amount to make the other ingredients come alive. It’s the spices that fill our home warmth and comfort and fill us with anticipation of the meal to come. The following spices are full of flavor, color, and depth.

1. Saffron

This beautiful crimson colored spice comes from the variety of the Crocus flower. It has the aromatic combination of hay and freshly mowed grass. There’s an earthy flavor that provides a sweet nutty flavor when added to soup. Saffron if one of the most expensive spices in the world because it takes over an acre of land just to produce 3 pounds. Luckily, you only need a pinch at a time.

2. Grains of Paradise

This exotic spice can best be described as peppercorns on steroids. It has an intense peppery base, along with hints of cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and citrus. It is often used in West African cooking when black pepper is not available. These grains can be ground in a pepper mill and added to soup for a punch of hot and spicy flavor.

3. Asafetida

This extremely pungent spice is often used as a substitute for onions and garlic in Indian cuisine. It’s usually brown, but can be yellow when mixed with cumin, (both are sold separately). The strong flavor will lift ordinary soup, and is great at clearing nasal passages when fighting a cold.

4. Nigella Seeds

Also known as black cumin, this smoky spice has been used for medicinal purposes in Arabic countries for centuries. But it’s layered flavors of onion, oregano, and cumin that make it a fabulous spice to add to soup.

5. Fennel Pollen

Called “culinary fairy dust”, this sweet and citrus infused herb is used by top chefs all over the world. It’s another expensive spice, because its hand-picked and hard to capture. But if you’re looking for a spicier version of fennel to add to Italian or tomato based soups, then you might want to invest in some.

Sea Vegetables

The term sea vegetable is used to describe over 100 varieties of edible seaweed. Seaweed is algae that grows naturally in the ocean, and comes in red, green, and blue. It also comes in different textures, and flavors, though the basic taste is that of an earthy saltiness.

Sea vegetables are a staple food in many Asian cultures, but have been gaining popularity in parts of the world because of their high nutritional value and flavor. The most common sea veggies used in soup include:

1. Dulse

Red, and high in protein, this seaweed is used for medicinal purposes in many countries. It’s used as a flavor enhancer for many soups. When fried it has a taste similar to bacon.

2. Aonari

This green algae is usually ground into powder and used to give soup an earthy flavor. It’s loaded with vitamins A and E.

3. Wakame

Sweet and hearty, this green plant also has hints of sesame. High in the necessary nutrient folate, it has a briny flavor that’s popular in many Asian foods.

4. Kombu

A vibrant green color, kombu is high in iodine and fiber. It has a briny mushroom flavor that goes great in soups and salads.

5. Ogonori

This red algae has a strong flavor of brine. It’s high in iron and calcium, and is popular in soups due to its texture and taste.

Edible Flowers And Plants

They’re not just for decoration anymore. The use of edible flowers has become quite the culinary “it” ingredient lately. Even though many cultures have been using them for hundreds of years on teas, soups, and to treat illnesses.

Many flowers contain dense nutrients, and are simply, downright delicious. Do your research before consuming any flower, but here are a few commonly used in soups.

1. Hibiscus

This predominately red flower is extremely fragrant and can be added to soup as a tasty aromatic. It has the flavor of pomegranate and is used heavily in Latin cuisine. Hibiscus is full of antioxidants.

2. Daylilies

When dried, these beautiful flowers taste like asparagus and green peas. Add them to soup for a nice earthy flavor.

3. Chrysanthemums

Used as an anti-inflammatory in many cultures, this flower has a nice flavor combination of jasmine and lavender. Use it in soup for a sweet, fruity undertone.

4. Nasturtium

With a sharp and spicy flavor similar to pepper, the flower is great when ground up or flaked and mixed into soups. It also looks nice when used as a garnish on top of a dish.

The Importance Of Experimenting With Ingredients

Experimenting with new and unusual ingredients can not only be fun, but rewarding. You can turn a bland, common dish into a vibrant bowl of flavor with just one new ingredient. The trick is to keep an open mind and do your research. Here are a few tips and thoughts to encourage you.

  • Start slow – don’t overwhelm yourself or the soup
  • Think of yourself as a culinary artist – creating an original work of art
  • It’s ok to make mistakes – learn from them
  • Attend cooking classes to learn new techniques
  • Watch cooking shows
  • Stay open to constructive criticism

The most important thing, is to listen to your intuition. If something is telling you a certain ingredient would be tasty in a certain soup, give it a try. You may make the next “big thing”.

Unusual Soups With Unique Ingredients

  • Beetroot Hibiscus Soup
  • Lily Flower Soup
  • Squash and Nigella Seed Soup
  • Sweet Nasturtium Soup
  • Chrysanthemum Soup
  • Butternut and Fennel Pollen Soup
  • Red Lentil and Saffron Soup
  • African Peanut Soup with Grains of Paradise
  • Potato Soup with Asafetida
  • Korean Seaweed Soup

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