Asian soups are soups traditionally prepared and consumed in the cultures of Asia. Such soups are usually based solely on broths and lacking in dairy products such as milk or cream. Thickening for the soups usually consists of refined starches from corn or sweet potatoes.
Asian soups are generally categorized as either savoury or sweet. The quality of a savoury soup is determined mainly by its fragrance and umami or "xian" flavour, as well as, to a lesser extent, its mouthfeel. Sweet soups such as tong sui are enjoyed for their aroma, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. Many soups are eaten and drunk as much for their flavour as for their health benefits and touted for their purported revitalizing or invigorating effects.
Since many Asian soups are eaten as one of the main dishes in a meal or in some cases served straight with little adornment, particular attention is paid to the soups' stocks. In the case of some soups, the stock ingredients become part of the soup.
Chicken (T: 雞湯, S: 鸡汤): The basic broth used in creating most Chinese soups. The basic broth is sometimes fortified with liquorice root, wolfberry, and other Chinese herbs.
Pork broth (T: 瘦肉湯, S: 瘦肉汤): Lean pork is used most often as the soup base for long-simmered Chinese soups, called 老火湯 in Cantonese. This soup base is often simmered over low heat for several hours with other roots, dried herbs, vegetables, and edible fungi like shiitake mushroom, white fungus, or wood ear. The Cantonese are especially known for their long-simmered Chinese soups, as they often pair ingredients under Chinese Medicine concepts to enhance health-benefiting functions of the soup.
White broth (T: 白湯, S: 白汤): Made from lightly blanched pork bones that have been vigorously boiled for several hours, creating a white milky broth. This broth has a rich mouthfeel, and is often used in ramen soups.
Fish broth (T: 魚湯, S: 鱼汤): Made from fish that have been fried and boiled for several hours, creating a white milky broth. This broth has a rich feel, and sweet umami taste.
Coarse broth (T: 毛湯, S: 毛汤): A broth made using the bones, meat offcuts, or skin of either pork, duck, or chicken. A commonly broth used for simple flavouring of common dishes.
Superior broth (T: 上湯, S: 上汤): A dark tan broth made from Jinhua ham, pork, and chicken that has been slowly simmered to finish. This rich and umami broth is used in the creation of many expensive soups such as shark fin soup or wonton soup.
Clarified broth (T: 吊湯, S: 吊汤): A filtered white broth made through vigorous boiling of bones and chicken that has been clarified using pureed or finely minced chicken breast meat. Repeating the clarification and infusion process with more minced chicken produces a double clarified broth (T: 雙吊湯, S: 双吊汤). The white broth can also be clarifed using egg white or blood but taste will not be optimal. Used in the Sichuan dish, Kaishui baicai (開水白菜, lit. Cabbage in boiled water).
Ingredients used in making Chinese stocks can be recooked again to produce a thinner broth with less intense flavours, known as ertang (二湯, Pinyin:èr tāng, lit. second soup).
Collectively known as dashi, most Japanese soup bases are flavoured primarily with kombu (kelp) and shavings from dried skipjack tuna (katsuobushi). They are soaked or simmered to release the umami flavours of the shavings, and the resulting broth is strained. Mirin is occasionally added to the broth to further enhance the taste of the broth.
Kelp: Kelp (kombu) is soaked in lukewarm water or simmered to yield a light broth.
Niboshi: made by soaking or boiling dried sardines (niboshi) in water. The heads and entrails are usually pinched off prior to soaking, to prevent bitterness.
Yukgaejang (육계장) is a spicy red soup made with beef strips, red pepper, and assorted vegetables (usually green and white onions, bean sprouts, among others); many variations include egg and rice or cellophane noodles dropped into the soup, and sometimes shrimp and other pieces of seafood. Of the spicy Korean soups, 육계장 is very popular among both Koreans and non-Koreans.
Miyeok guk (미역국) is a soup made from boiled sliced beef and miyeok (popularized as wakame in Japanese). It is believed to be good for the blood vessels and heart. Koreans traditionally eat this for birthday celebrations, or when a woman gives birth to a child.
Tteok guk (떡국) is a soup made with slices of rice cake. The base is usually beef or anchovy (멸치) stock along with the rice cake slices, and most variations also have sliced green onions, eggs dropped into the soup, and are usually served with strips or pieces of laver (김; many variations will be baked or fried and salted/seasoned). 떡국 is traditionally served on the lunar New Year, but is a favourite during the colder months.
Doenjang (된장) is a bean paste soup base. Usually served with at least tofu and green onions, many variations include other ingredients (including various meats or fishes but usually not egg, potatoes, and other vegetables). Miso is a less-concentrated, much simpler version of 된장.
Sundubu jjigae (순두부 찌개) is a spicy red stew (not so much a soup) very similar in ingredients and preparation to 육계장, but has dropped tofu (i.e. not the firm kind, but uncurdled tofu, called sundubu in Korean) as a primary ingredient in addition to everything else, and will tend to favour seafood ingredients more heavily than meats. Usually served scalding hot and with the balance in favour of ingredients over fluid, 순두부 찌개 is also different from 육계장 in that the egg yolk is often placed in the soup intact (as opposed to the usual dropped egg technique in which the egg white and the egg yolk are broken up within the soup and thus cook within the soup in pieces, not as a single piece).
A bowl of canh chua
Vietnamese cuisine features two basic categories of soup: noodle soups and broths (Vietnamese: canh).
Broths are thin and generally made from vegetables and spices. They are typically eaten over steamed rice in ordinary lunches and dinners. Common broths include canh chua rau đay and canh chua cá lóc.
Hot pot (lẩu) is a popular traditional soup in Vietnam. Mushroom hot pot was popularized by the Ashima Restaurant chain in Vietnam.
A thick, sweet, porridge-like soup called chè is eaten as a snack.
Many Asian soups are consumed as a partial restorative and heavily linked with theories from traditional Chinese medicine. Exotic rarities like tiger penis soup fall in this category. There are many varieties of such tonic soups, ranging from pungent to light in flavour, and from savoury to sweet. Some soups of the same name may consist of different recipes due to regional preferences or differences. Such soups commonly contain one or more meats (typically pork or chicken), vegetables, and medicinal herbs.
Bazhen tang (T: 八珍湯, S: 八珍汤; literally "eight-rarity/treasure soup"): When cooked with beaten egg, it is called "Bazhen danhua tang" (T: 八珍蛋花湯, S: 八珍蛋花汤; literally "eight treasure egg flower soup"). This formulation is the combination of Sijunzi tang (四君子湯) and Siwu tang (四物湯).
Shiquan tang (T: 十全湯, S: 十全汤; literally "ten-complete soup", or more idiomatically "complete/wholesome soup"): More often known by its full name "Shiquen dabu tang" (T: 十全大補湯, S: 十全大补汤; literally "complete/wholesome great restorative soup"). This formulation is an extension of Bazhen tang (八珍湯) with the addition of Cinnamomum aromaticum (肉桂) and Astragalus propinquus (黃芪)
The Asian soup noodle is a large portion of long noodles served in a bowl of broth. In comparison, western noodle soup is more of a soup with small noodle pieces. The former dish is dominated by the carbohydrate while the latter dish is dominated by the soup liquid.
Phở is a Vietnamese staple noodle soup. Its broth is made from boiling beef bones, ginger, and sweet spices (star anise, cinnamon, and cloves) over many hours.