The Magic Bowl: Hearty and healthy winter soups

Soups  don't particularly or necessarily make your tastebuds dance, but they  are slowly and steadily climbing the gourmet chart, thanks to the new innovation that has turned soup – both hot and cold – into a delight. We gather some of the city’s interesting soups that are not only flavourful and filling, but more importantly under 250 calories.

Try these mouthwatering and easy-to-make healthy soups.

A bowl of comforting Cambodian Prawn Soup

1. Cambodian Prawn Soup: The beauty of this authentic best-seller is that aside of being cornflour-free and no MSG, it is an absolute tongue teaser. A mix of sweet and chilli, rich in protein, and pairs beautifully with a bowl of wok-tossed sesame noodles for being a meal in itself. Don’t fancy prawns? Throw in a wide array of cold cuts and wok-tossed meat.

Best place to have in Mumbai: All Stir Fry 

Make it at home
• 50 gm diced prawns
• 50 gm button mushrooms
• 20 gm diced tofu
• 10 gm chopped shiitake mushrooms
• 300 ml chicken stock/ vegetable stock
• 2 tbsp oyster sauce
• 1 tsp shredded basil leaves
• 1 tsp chopped fresh red chillies
• 20 ml lemon juice
• A pinch of crushed black peppercorns
• 2 tbsp chopped spring onions
• Salt to taste
• In a thick bottom pot, simmer together the prawns, shiitake and button mushrooms, tofu, chicken stock, oyster sauce, basil leaves, chillies and peppercorns. Once the prawns are cooked through, remove off the heat and taste for seasoning.
• Divide the lemon juice and spring onions equally in two soup bowls and pour the soup. Serve hot garnished with sliced red chill.

A Latin-American classic: Caldo de Pollo

2. Caldo De Pollo: Caldo de Pollo is a traditional Latin-American soup that consists of chicken and vegetables. What makes this soup different from other versions of chicken soups is that the Caldo de pollo uses whole chicken pieces, instead of chopped or shredded chicken. It  is made with a rich chicken stock flavoured with chipotle and Mexican oregano. 

Best place to have it in Mumbai: Sanchos 

Make it at home
• 20 gm chopped garlic
• 40 gm finely-diced onion
• 15 ml oil   
• 50 gm tomato puree    
• 50 gm puree of Chipotle in adobo sauce 
• 1 ltr chicken stock      
• 100 gm pulled chicken (deboned and shredded)    
• 80 gm red Mexican rice/ regular short grain rice 
• 40 gm shredded iceberg lettuce               
• 60 gm pico de gallo                              
• 5 ml lemon juice
• Salt to taste
• A pinch of crushed Mexican oregano       
• 5 gm chopped cilantro                   
• Heat oil in a pan, sauté garlic and onion.
• Add chipotle puree, tomato puree and cook it further till reduced to a paste.
• Now add in the chicken stock and boil. Skim the fat layer gathering on the top and let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
• Add in the pulled chicken, crushed oregano and salt to taste, simmer for further 5 minutes.
• Take four-soup bowls, add in the pico de gallo, Mexican rice and shredded lettuce. Pour the hot soup on top. 
• Garnish with chopped cilantro and a dash of lemon juice.

Chef’s Tip: To make a rich chicken stock, poach a whole chicken with skin on in the stock itself. Cook the chicken till the meat falls off the bone. Pico de gallo is a basic salsa made of tomatoes (centre seed and pulp is removed), jalapeño, onions, cilantro, salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

Tuck into this healthy and comforting broth of tomato and lemongrass 3. Tomato and Lemongrass Broth:  It’s one of the simplest, freshest soups to make. Tomato and lemongrass broth often plays the base for all kinds of vegetarian soups as it pairs well with all kinds of vegetables – and at times fresh seafood as well. A little under than 215 calories a huge bowl, it can be a soup-to-go to when under the weather. Served best with buttered focaccia.

Best place to have it in Mumbai: Smoke House Deli

Make it at home

• 1000 gm fresh tomatoes
• 200 gm carrots
• 100 gm onions
• 100 gm garlic
• 100 gm celery
• 100 gm leeks
• 2 nos bay leaves
• 5 gm whole black pepper
• 500 gm lemon grass 
• 100 gm tomato puree
• 100 ml oil 
• Salt and sugar to taste


• Chop all vegetables and keep it aside. Now heat oil in a heavy bottom pan, add onion and garlic and cook till soft.
• Now add the remaining vegetables and cook till done. Add tomato and tomato puree and cook till mashable consistency. Add water and bruised lemon grass. Simmer till you can smell the lemon grass
• Strain the soup, first with a strainer and then a muslin cloth to get a clean broth. Season with salt, sugar, partly crushed pepper and serve with crusty bread.

A hearty and meatless soup packed with a punch

4. Spinach, Shittake and Soba Noodle Soup:
Easily the best vegetarian version of any meaty soup, this Asian soup is one healthy bowl of goodness at 250 calories, and is fragrant. Fun to make and quick, it is the best way to develop a taste for soba. The fact that it’s also a meal in itself – much like the khau suey, only healthier – is a bonus. Legend has it that people had the soup for longevity – and they lived too!

Best place to have it in Mumbai: 36 Oak & Barley

Make it at home

• 2 tbsp vegetable oil
• 350 gm thinly-sliced shiitake mushrooms
• 4 no. spring onion stalks
• 1 no.  minced garlic
• 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
• Sea salt to taste
• 750 ml vegetable/chicken broth
• 1/2 packet Soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
• 1 bunch spinach
• 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
• 1 tbsp soy sauce

• In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium flame. Add mushrooms, spring onion whites, garlic, and ginger; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender.
• Add broth and three cups water; bring it to a boil. Add soba, and simmer cook for 5 minutes. Add spinach, cook just until tender. Add lime juice and soy sauce. Serve topped with spring onion greens.

Chef’s Tip: You can change the vegetable as per the season, and remember to serve it with chili paste on the side.

A bowl full of mouthwatering crabmeat goodness

5. Crab Meat Soup: The soup is inspired by the She Crab soup. Made of crabmeat, crab roe, cream, sherry, thickening, vegetables and spices, the She Crab soup dates back to the pre-revolutionary era, and was said to keep an army satiated for days. The truth of the story is debatable, but not the flavours. Known for its tart and tanginess, this new version, is a modern take on it. A potassium bomb, you can easily have two servings of this 150-calorie soup.

Best place to have it in Mumbai:

Make it at home

• 350 gm dressed crabmeat (white and brown)
• 6 no. chopped shallots
• 1 no chopped garlic
• 800 ml fish stock made with stock cubes
• 75gm Basmati rice
• 11/2 tsp crushed chilli flakes
• 2 tsp fish sauce
• 200 ml coconut milk
• 1 no lemon juice
• Coriander and green onions to garnish

• Put the brown crabmeat, shallots, garlic and fish stock into a food processor or blender and make a smooth paste.
• Tip the mixture into a pan and add the rice and crushed chilli flakes. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the rice is tender.
• Stir in the fish sauce, coconut milk and lemon juice. Add the white crabmeat and heat through gently. Season lightly. Ladle into bowls, then sprinkle with coriander and spring onions.
• Serve it with coarsely shredded or thinly sliced vegetables (such as carrot, celery, onion and cucumber) and garnished with rice or white wine vinegar.

Hearty and delicious: Italy's minestrone soup with bacon

6. Minestrone Soup with Bacon: This beloved Italian soup isn't just hearty and healthy -- it's one of the most versatile soup that appeals to both the vegetarian as well as the meat-loving palate. While a classic Minestrone would typically include lots of leafy greens, other veggies, and beans, here is a recipe that includes bacon and a few things more, to make it one of the best meals in a bowl option. Interestingly, it can be served cold, too, though having it piping hot is a tradition. 

Best place to have it in Mumbai:
Silver Beach Cafe

Make it at home

• 3 chopped bacon rashers
• 2 chopped carrots
• 2 celery sticks
• 1 diced potato
• 2 Crushed garlic cloves
• 1ltr vegetable/chicken stock
• 300gm boiled red kidney beans
• 500gm chopped tomatoes
• 1/2 cup pasta
• 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
• Salt and black pepper for seasoning

• Place the bacon, carrots, celery, potato and garlic in a large saucepan and cook over high flame, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
• Add the stock, red kidney beans and tomatoes to the pan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce  the flame to medium-low. Cover and let it simmer, covered until the vegetables are tender.
• On high flame, add pasta and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until its  al dente. • • Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into serving bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Chef’s Tip: Want to make it even more filling yet indulging, add a blob of Parmesan cheese  with chopped basil and cover. Keep it that way till you are ready to eat. The aroma of basil mixed with Parmesan is simply heavenly. Pairs beautifully on a garlic cheese butter toast.