When the weather is really cold, a filling soup works brilliantly as a main course, and that’s why oriental soups work so well. Here are some personal favourites:
Jerry Wong’s best soup is called Mahmee. The stock is so pale, it’s almost colourless, and in all the years I’ve ordered it, there has never been a droplet of oil on the surface. The flavour is as subtle as it’s appearance suggests. Though Jerry claims this has to do with simmering prawns, there is no seafood flavour, however remote. There are, however, all of Jerry Wong’s trademark vegetables: carrots, French bean, celery and cauliflower. The best part about Mahmee (Rs 110) is that it won’t fill you up for the main course. Mizutaki (Rs 110) is the kind of soup that every Chinese restaurant of the 1960s and ’70s used to serve. A cornflour-thickened stock, vegetables, mushrooms and egg-drop: to transport yourself to the era before broccoli and baby corn, try this one.
The Chinese is a family favourite. Whether your tastes are conservative or exceedingly adventurous, chances are you’ll get it here. My children refuse to have Chicken Sweet Corn Soup (Rs 115) anywhere else, and though I’m not a fan of something so trite, I see why Their version is . made with superior chicken stock, the kind you find in up-market restaurants in Hong Kong. No cornflour is added, so the finished product is silky because of the stock, sweet because of the premium corn kernels and rich because of the egg drop. My own favourite is the Hunan Sour Vegetable Lamb Kidney Soup (Rs 125).
Very spicy, it is a bit like hot and sour soup, except that this is a Hunan version (The Chinese has a predominantly Hunan menu, the only known restaurant in the country to do so). Fragrant with coriander leaves, rich with minced lamb kidneys and spicy as only Hunan cuisine can be (it outpaces Sichuan in spice quotient), I can’t think of a better pick-me-up when the weather is capricious.
For general excellence in soups, it is hard to beat Art Chilli. Their version of Penang Laksa (Rs 145) is a sour, spicy concoction whose base of fish stock is made creamy with coconut milk. Fish Ball and Chinese Cabbage (Rs 145) is a “classic Chinese soup, whose mild stock makes it easy to have it in Chinese style — drinking your soup with your main course. It is rare for a chef who is not from the Far East to understand the nuances of stock, so Art Chilli is singularly fortunate: their chef seasons delicate stocks with a subtle touch. Jade Coriander Mushroom Soup (Rs 90) is lightly thickened with cornflour. The jade in its name comes from finely minced coriander leaves.