Soup's on, but the stove isn't

When you can't jump in the lake, run through a sprinkler or glue yourself to the air conditioner, there are slightly more dignified ways to cool down in Chicago.

One is with soup. Cold soup, that is.

Yes, we have heard the insane theory about how hot things--like steaming cups of green tea--are the best thirst quenchers, but we think that is just a heat-induced hallucination. Anyway, here are five quick sips from the coolest ethnic soups we know.

The Scandinavian folks at Tre Kronor serve fruit soup all year round, warm or cold upon request. Although they occasionally serve a strawberry version, the more typical offering is the inelegantly named blabarssoppa (blueberry soup). It's served with a dollop of whipped cream and a shower of sliced almonds for $2.95 a cup.

Available at most Lithuanian restaurants, salti barsciai, a traditional summer soup, is made with sour cream, buttermilk and a thick tangle of cooked beet strips. You'll find this chilly Pepto Bismol look-alike sprinkled with chopped dill and green onions at Mabenka for $2.50 and an even creamier version for $2.75 at Healthy Food Restaurant.

North Korea may have a president with zero fashion sense when it comes to hairdos and glasses, but mul naengmyon, its cold beef noodle soup (also found at most South Korean restaurants), is as cool as can be. Perhaps the most elegant presentation comes from Rolling Meadows' Woo Lae Oak, where the dish of long-simmered, clear beef broth; thin slices of brisket; hard-boiled egg; and a nest of buckwheat noodles goes for $12.

Unlike Wallace Shawn in "My Dinner with Andre," most foodies know what vichyssoise is. This cold potato and leek potage is a soothing way to turn down the heat of a Chicago summer, especially when you duck into the quaint Cyrano's Bistrot and Wine Bar. There chef Didier Durand makes the classic version of this creamy concoction as well as other varieties ($4.95 a bowl).

Originating as a cold bread, olive oil and vegetable dish hundreds of years ago in Spain's Andalusia region, gazpacho is best known today as a cold, crunchy, tomatoey soup. That is only one of the versions you will find at Emilio's Tapas Sol y Nieve. There chef Emilio Gervilla offers several varieties each summer (for $4.25 a bowl at lunch and $2.95 a cup at dinner).

Monica Eng is a Chicago Tribune staff reporter.

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