An elegant broth bowl, with duck breast and
foie gras. Photo courtesy Duet Brasserie.
Are bowl bowls trending? Last month we wrote about layered salad bowls. Today it’s broth bowls—a dish that dates back to prehistory*, as soon as vessels were made to hold soup.
Homo sapiens (us modern humans) emerged about 200,000 years ago, and for the majority of our existence, we have had no soup. The earliest humans had nothing to boil liquids in. Boiling was not easy to do until the invention of waterproof containers, probably pouches made of clay or animal skin, about 9,000 years ago. Here’s the history of soup.
But back to broth bowls: For a hot yet lighter summer dinner, serve your protein and veggies in a bowl of broth (photo at left).
Inspired by this dish from Duet Brasserie in New York City’s Greenwich Village, we’ve been making our own. It’s easy, and you can get away with more vegetables and less meat, which is both healthier and less expensive.
Duet’s chef created a gourmet broth bowl: duck consommé, smoked duck breast, duck foie gras, scallions, Chinese broccoli and a hard-boiled quail egg.
Panera Bread has an earthier approach to the concept with soy-miso broth bowls. One version has soba noodles and chicken or edamame, with spinach, napa cabbage, mushrooms, onions, sesame seeds and cilantro. Lentil and quinoa bowls have brown rice and chicken or hard-boiled egg, kale, spinach and tomato sofrito.
You can do just as well at home with chicken, beef, seafood or vegetable broth.
While there’s nothing better than homemade broth, we took the quick and easy route and purchased ours from the Pacific Soup Starters line. Our favorite is their Organic Soup Starters Phö, in beef, chicken and vegetarian varieties.
Food 101 Quickie: Phö, pronounced FUH (like duh but with a drawn-out “uh” and often spelled without the umlaut in the U.S.), is the beloved beef and rice-noodle soup of Vietnam. It may be the world’s greatest broth bowl, worth seeking out at the nearest Vietnamese restaurant. Phö means noodles, and the broth can be made with up to 30 ingredients—beef, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fish sauce, ginger, onions and star anise, for starters—exclusive of what you choose to add on top of the broth. Here’s more about phö.
*The writing of language was invented independently in at least two places: Sumer (Mesopotamia) around 3200 BCE and Mesoamerica around 600 BCE. The writing numbers for the purpose of record keeping began long before the writing of language.
WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR BROTH BOWL
The combination are unlimited! Just a sampling:
Asian accents: bean sprouts, water chestnuts, lime (squeezed into the soup after serving)
Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, spearmint
Grains: barley, corn, couscous, rice, quinoa, etc.
Heat: black pepper, chiles, nuoc mam (sriracha sauce)
Noodles: ideally flat rice noodles, but you can use any flat or round pasta
Proteins: any—fish/seafood, meat, poultry or tofu, cut or diced into stir fry-size pieces so no cutting in-bowl is needed
Vegetables: any! We like to use carrots (cut into flower shapes with a vegetable cutter) mushrooms, onion (green onion, leek, yellow onion), red bell pepper or tomato for color, zucchini
Seasonings: chipotle, garlic, salt and pepper
Wild card: anything else—you’re the chef!
Cook each ingredient as appropriate. Add the hot broth into bowls, then the other ingredients in an artistic arrangement, and top with fresh herbs.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BROTH, BONE BROTH, STOCK & MORE
Aspic. Aspic is jellied broth made from meat or fish stock. It is refrigerated, where it becomes solid, like gelatin; then is cubed and used as a relish for meat, fish or vegetable dishes. Or, it is used as a filler in a molded dish that includes meat, fish or vegetables.
Bone broth. Like stock (see below), bone broth is typically is made with bones and the small amount of meat adhering to them. As with stock, the bones are typically roasted first to improve the flavor of the broth. The key difference is that bone broth is simmered for a much longer time, 24 hours or more. This long cooking time helps to extract the maximum amount of minerals and other nutrients from the bones.
Bouillon. Bouillon is a clear, thin broth made typically by simmering chicken or beef in water with seasonings (bouillon is the French word for broth). It is stock (see below) that is strained, and then served as a clear soup or used as a base for other dishes and sauces. Bouillon can be made from mixed sources, e.g. chicken and vegetables. It can be enhanced with other flavors—for example, sherry, herbs and spices. The key difference between bouillon and plain broth is that bouillon is always served plain (with an optional garnish), whereas broth can be made more substantive with the addition of a grain (corn, barley, rice) and vegetables.
Broth bowl of chicken in soy miso broth with ramen and vegetables. Photo courtesy Panera Bread.
Bouillon cube. No serious cook would use a bouillon cube to make bouillon, but it became an important kitchen ingredient for time-strapped home cooks to increase the flavor in dishes. The small, dense cube is dehydrated bouillon or stock with seasonings and a substantial amount of salt. Vegetarian and vegan cubes are also made, and bouillon is also available in granular form. Dehydrated meat stock tablets date back at least to 1735, but bouillon cubes were first commercialized by Maggi in 1908. By 1913, there were at least 10 brands available.
Broth. Broth is typically made with meat and sometimes a small amount of bones. It is typically simmered for a far shorter period of time than bouillon—45 minutes to 2 hours. The result is very light in flavor and thin in texture, although rich in protein. Plain broth can be thickened with starch or the addition of rice, barley, vegetables or eggs. Examples with eggs include Chinese chicken egg drop soup, Greek avgolemono soup and Italian stracciatella soup. The terms bouillon and broth are often used interchangeably, but as you can see, there are differences.
Consommé. Consommé is a refined broth, a clear liquid made by clarifying stock for a more elegant presentation. Typically, egg whites are added to the stock. The cloudy particles in the stock attach themselves to the egg whites and rise to the surface, where they are skimmed off. The word consommé means consumed or finished in French, indicating a more finished soup than a stock or a broth. In classic French cuisine, a bowl of consommé was often served at the beginning of a meal.
Stock. Stock is typically made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat that adheres to the bones. The bones are often roasted before simmering, which improves the flavor. Stock is typically simmered for a longer time than broth, 3 to 4 hours. The result is rich in minerals and gelatin and more flavor than broth, extracted from the longer cooking time.
Velouté. Velouté is broth thickened with eggs, butter and cream.
DISCOVER MORE TYPES OF SOUP IN OUR SOUP GLOSSARY.