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Best New York soup (Photo: iStockphoto)

9 Soul-Satisfying Soups to Cut the Winter Chill in NYC

From a cup of hearty minestrone at a standout West Village Italian restaurant to Malaysia's fiery, complex laksa at a joint just off Union Square, behold the city's best bowls

If there’s one culinary form that crosses all national boundaries, it’s soup. From Southeast Asia’s endless varieties of noodle soup sold from roadside street stalls, to French consommés served in delicate porcelain, nearly every cooking tradition has a soup (or a dozen) to call its own — and as the winter wears on, there’s nothing more comforting. With cold and nasty weather in mind, here are nine of the boroughs’ best bowls. These bowls are meals in themselves, with ample pork, seafood or veggies to pacify even the hungriest eater. We dare you to eat a bowl of ramen at Chuko Ramen, with an intensely rich pork broth and a runny-yolked egg, and not walk away satisfied.

 

Littleneck clam chowder

Clam Chowder at Littleneck (Photo: Courtesy of Littleneck)

Clam Chowder at Littleneck
When you picture classic New England clam shacks, you likely imagine them in surrounds far more scenic than Brooklyn‘s Third Avenue in still-gritty Gowanus. Despite the proximity to the toxic canal, Littleneck does the seafood classics as well as anyone — from its steamer clams to lobster rolls to killer clam chowder. It’s creamy, rather than gloppy, with more-than-ample chunks of tender clam, properly small bits of potato and pork belly for an extra something savory. Oyster crackers are all it needs. 288 3rd Ave., Brooklyn, 718-522-1921, littleneckbrooklyn.com

 

Asam Laksa at Laut

Asam Laksa at Laut (Photo: Courtesy of Laut)

Asam Laksa at Laut
This refined Malaysian restaurant, just off of Union Square, hits all the savory-funky-sour notes of that country’s cuisine — and nowhere is that more apparent than in its asam laksa. Of the two laksas you’ll find in Malaysia, asam (which translates to tamarind) is the more unusual from a Western perspective: a thin, spicy fish broth with tamarind, shrimp paste, and a host of aromatics, with chewy laifun noodles and a bright array of herbs and pineapple to garnish. It’s an acquired taste, sure, but once acquired, you’ll find that Laut has the best version in Manhattan. 15 East 17th St., 212-206-8989, lautnyc.com

Brazilian Chicken Garlic Rice Soup at Shopsins
This closet-sized diner within the Essex Street Market, run by famously eccentric Kenny Shopsin, has more than 30 soups listed on its menu — and alongside that list reads the note: “Ask for a full soup menu.” (In fairness, the guy has 30-plus pancake variations and 50-plus sandwiches, too.) “A lot of times when I name a dish for a certain country,” wrote Shopsin in his cookbook, Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin “it is not because the dish exists in that country, but because for me the dish has the telltales of that country’s cuisine.” Thus the non-Brazilian, Brazilian Chicken Garlic Rice, a longtime favorite, with lots of browned garlic, rich beef stock, grilled chicken and charred vegetables. 120 Essex St., no phone, shopsins.com

 

One of the phos, Pho Bo, at An Choi (Photo: Courtesy of An Choi)

Pho Bo Dac Biet at An Choi
Ask 10 pho-lovers where to get a bowl in New York, and they’re likely to give you 10 different answers. But this Lower East Side Vietnamese eatery, a lively alley-like restaurant adorned with lights and posters, knocks it out of the park with its Pho Bo Dac Biet, the house special beef pho, with oxtail, tendon and meatballs adding incomparable beef richness on top of a clean, aromatic broth. Ask for a plate of herbs, if one hasn’t been brought to your table; the pile of cilantro, Thai basil, and more greenery, plus lime and chilies, is essential to any pho experience. 85 Orchard St., 212-226-3700, anchoinyc.com

 

Pozole at Tortilleria Nixtamal

Pozole at Tortilleria Nixtamal (Photo: Courtesy of Tortilleria Nixtamal)

Pozole at Tortilleria Nixtamal
Pozole is the ideal vehicle for plump grains of hominy — corn that has been soaked in an alkali solution in a process called nixtamalization. And Queen‘s Tortilleria Nixtamal, as the name might suggest, does that right onsite, making its own hominy for the traditional Mexican soup. In each bowl, you’ll find a rich pork broth, stray bits of pernil, and a pile of garnishes — the expected radish and lime, plus onion and herbs, and fried-up tortillas for crunch. 104-05 47th Ave., Queens, 718-699-2434, tortillerianixtamal.com

 

Ramen at Chuko Ramen

Ramen at Chuko Ramen (Photo: Courtesy of Chuko Ramen)

Ramen at Chuko Ramen
There are any number of ramen spots across New York vying for the title of the city’s best. Chuko in Prospect Heights, the work of three Morimoto veterans, is firmly in the upper tier. Each of its four kinds of ramen sports springy noodles and rich, deeply flavored broths; we’re partial to the kimchi-scallion, with an egg and ground pork. Vegetarians, who often get left out of pork-laden ramen-fests, can eat mighty well too. Chuko’s veggie-miso ramen includes a veritable garden’s worth of seasonal vegetables. Don’t miss the Brussels sprouts or the kale salad, either. 552 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn, 718-576-6701, barchuko.com

 

Matzoh Ball Soup at Knish Nosh

Matzoh Ball Soup at Knish Nosh (Photo: Mandingojones/Flickr)

Matzoh Ball Soup at Knish Nosh
The “best” matzoh ball soup is generally the one that your grandmother used to make, but those without a grandmother handy can take comfort at Knish Nosh in Forest Hills, Queens. In addition to having one of the city’s better named restaurants, Knish Nosh has one of its better soups: Its matzoh ball soup has an incredibly rich chicken base, so delightfully schmaltz-laden it’ll leave a sheen on your lips. And the matzoh balls themselves are light and well-seasoned and just as appealing. (While you’re there, grab a knish, of course.)100-30 Queens Blvd., 718-897-4456, knishnosh.com

 

Ukrainian Borscht at Veselka

Ukrainian Borscht at Veselka (Photo: Yukochatulapoly/Flickr CC)

Ukrainian Borscht at Veselka
This East Village mainstay has plenty to recommend itself — the Ukrainian varenyky (dumplings), the hamburgers, the ability to get both at 4am any day of the week. But the borscht deserves a share of the credit. While beets lend a vivid color and sweet, earthy flavor, it’s the pork butt and beef stock that make the soup meaty and compelling — a hearty winter meal, and should you make a late-night visit, substantial enough to set you straight. Vegetarians: There’s a version for you, too. 144 Second Ave., 212-228-9682, veselka.com

 

Minestrone Soup at Rosemary's

Minestrone Soup at Rosemary’s (Photo: Courtesy of Rosemary’s)

Minestrone at Rosemary’s
“The menu bills it as ‘the ultimate minestrone,’ wrote New York Times food critic Pete Wells in his review of this West Village Italian restaurant, “and the hyperbole is not far from the mark.” In the summer, when Rosemary’s rooftop garden is in fine form, you might find vegetables grown right upstairs cooked into your minestrone. This time of year, they come from the market: baby carrots and turnips, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, escarole, and roasted tomato, along with lithe pasta shapes and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. And if you don’t want to brave the cold to wait in line at the popular restaurant? Rosemary’s delivers, too. 18 Greenwich Ave., 212-647-1818, rosemarysnyc.com

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