10 Great Soups In OC
It's cold now. It's decidedly more difficult these days to get out of your warm bed in the morning and into the shower. Last night, before you went out, you had to fish out your jacket from the back of the closet. It's that time of year: soup season. So here are ten great soups to enjoy in OC. The list also contains a few noodle soups as well as some congee, because, well, you can never have enough of either, especially when it's soup season.
1. Tofu Soup at Tasty Thai
Tasty Thai has but one cook. You'll know this because you'll say to hi to the guy when you go through the kitchen on your way to the restroom. That one cook produces a menu as crowded with dishes it might as well be a Thai food encyclopedia. You'll need at least several months to explore even a fraction of that list; but his simple tofu soup is a dish that makes the place essential, even if that was the only thing he served. The broth is the kind that at first glance, doesn't appear to be anything special, but you'd be dead wrong to assume so. It is, in fact, a nectar so unbelievably good, it trumps their Tom Yum Goong or Tom Kha Gai. Unlike those soups, which relies on a souring agent and coconut milk, this broth is pure in its clearness and intent: to animate the silken cubes of tofu and invigorate the boiled greens and carrots.
DooRe does one of the better pots of soondubu in Irvine. The second you receive custody of the soup, crack a raw egg into it, then tuck the yolk under the layers of boiling soybean custard, meat bits, and broth. Let it sink to the bottom to be swaddled in the warmth. By the time you slurp your way back to the egg, it'll be soft poached, ready to be spooned up with the rest of the meal, which will include at least a half dozen smaller dishes call panchan. So nibble on a cooling celery salad here, a wiggly cube of jelly there. The whole meal would not be complete without rice, here served in lidded metal bowls. You can technically just ask for one tofu soup to share, which comes with one bowl of rice. Then, just order another bowl for a buck, which instantly stretches the meal to become a two-fer.
3. Tom Yum Kha Gai at Thai Nakorn
Two soups you should never pass up ordering at Thai Nakorn are the tom yum kah gai and the tom yum kung. The tom yum kah gai is the milder of the two, but not by much. The level of heat, no matter how hot, will be tempered by a good dousing of creamy coconut milk, going on stealth mode because of it. The first sip twangs with the tartness of lime, the sugar, and the distinctly herby touch of galangal and lemongrass which hid behind a silky screen of sultry coconut milk. On the second sip, the raucous heat of Thai chili begins to hit you. By the third, a numbing sensation from the chiles creeps in. You'd be tempted to muffle the heat with a mouthful of rice.
4. Corn Chowder at California Fish Grill
Every once in a while, the California Fish Grill chain puts out specials that we wish were permanent. The corn chowder is one of them. The last time they served it, they ladled it in two sizes of bowls at the Irvine store. The orange-tinged brew is not unlike the clam chowder, except it's seafood-free (grilled shrimp can be added for a nominal fee) and has a deeper, slightly spicier flavor in its milky-thick soup. What it lacks in protein it makes up in fire-roasted bits of corn, whose char can be seen in the generous amount of kernels suspended in the liquid. It is not obvious whether the restaurant makes it in-house or if it's from a supplier, but who cares when it's this good. Let's just hope they start offering again and more permanently.
13135 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, CA