Critics' choice: Soup comfort on chilly nights

Critics' choice: Soup comfort on chilly nights
Tom Yum Koong’s namesake soup. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Wind storms, below-70-degree days and chilly, chilly nights — it's enough to drive one to soup. We're talking big pots of steamy, spicy crab stew. Or the kind of soup you lean over and dip your own ingredients into. Soups with springy noodles and chicken meatballs, or house-made dumplings, or shrimp and galangal — all of it enough to share with friends (the more friends to huddle with, the better). Here are a few places from recent Find columns for just that.

Linda Burum, Miles Clements, Betty Hallock and Thi Nguyen


The udon-


here is noodle soup at its bubbling best, a communal hot pot of seafood, meat, vegetables and udon all cooked in a bowl of boiling broth. Clams are laid in first, shells opened to the


-rich stock, then chicken meatballs and


noodles. The rest of the cooking is up to you: ribbons of


beef, scallops, shrimp, tofu, fish cake, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, mustard greens, cabbage and green onions.

2383 Lomita Blvd., Unit 101, Lomita, (310) 530-4661,

Tie on your cotton bib before you dip into the spicy crab stew. Into a spicy, ocean-perfumed broth served in a bubbling caldron goes quartered crabs, crab legs, mushrooms, sprouts, cabbage, green onions and chrysanthemum leaves. When it looks like you're winding down, the dumpling lady arrives with a handful of dough that she kneads and stretches as though making pizza. She slips dime-size nuggets into the scalding broth, and they emerge as flat, chewy, wheaty-tasting disks reminiscent of orecchiette pasta or the handmade Hungarian pinched dumplings,




4566 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 933-3228.

If you're looking for late hot-pot suppers along with well-made Hong Kong-style comfort food in Chinatown, here's the spot. Plates and platters of raw ingredients are spread on the table to be cooked in a bubbling pot of scarlet broth: glistening shrimp and rosy beef slices, a tangle of emerald-green pea tendrils, Chinese greens and the combination plate of wild and fresh mushrooms — half a dozen varieties arranged like a bouquet. It's a little of the San Gabriel Valley right in downtown.

750 N. Hill St., Suite F, Los Angeles, (213) 620-0838.

The Laotian-influenced Thai restaurant's namesake soup,

tom yum koong

, appears at the table in a volcanic hot pot big enough for at least four. Shrimp and mushrooms bob to the surface while an almost medicinal measure of chiles remains concealed below along with shards of lemongrass and galangal. It's a soup that stings with each pleasant slurp.

7132 Garden Grove Blvd., Suite A, Westminster, (714) 891-8192,