Feel-good soups that deliver big on flavor

Aromatic, brothy soups, like this quick chicken pho, revive health and soul in every way.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times )

Recently, a friend asked me how to make their diet breakfast shakes taste better, and I drew a blank. I had no clue because, confession, I’ve never actually made a shake like that and don’t like drinking them.

I’ve bought breakfast shakes and juices before in many failed attempts to be one of those “healthy people,” and I found couldn’t stomach them. I know many people love them, and I understand the point of them. But my idea of a healthy breakfast is scrambled or soft-boiled eggs with herbs showered on top — I’ll leave the drinking for my coffee, thankyouverymuch. However, the one liquid food I can get down with for health reasons is soup. Enriching, warm and savory, I feel 10 times better by the first spoonful — your fave juices and shakes could never.

And some of the best soups are the simplest. This garlic soup is just what it sounds like: broth suffused with the potent allium, which becomes sweet while cooking and then swirled with beaten egg for body. This ginger chicken soup is perfumed with lemongrass and bulked up with rice — refreshingly light but filling. French onion soup isn’t exactly light, but on chilly nights, it’s the best candidate for bringing warmth deep down to your bones where you need it. This quick chicken pho provides all the flavor of the long-simmering original but in a fraction of the time — great for emergencies when it’s 5 o’clock and you need dinner fast. And finally, a classic leek and potato soup is deeply savory and enriched with just a touch of cream at the end. Yes, it’s puréed smooth as a shake, but when it’s eaten hot out of a bowl and accompanied with a slice of crusty bread, this soup is far more nourishing than a shake and much more enjoyable to eat.

Pho Gà Nhanh (Quick Chicken Pho)

Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 2

The freshness of ginger, scallions and cilantro perfume this quick but satisfying version of pho.


French leek and potato soup

Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 4 to 6

A great blueprint for any vegetables you have lying around, but don’t skip the potato: It adds body and depth to the soup.

Garlic Soup

Time 45 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Simmering garlic in broth transforms it from assertive to sweet in this easy French country soup.

Soupe a l'oignon gratinee

Time 3 hours
Yields Serves 8

The flavor of the slowly braised onions in this classic soup are well worth the time and effort.


Ginger Chicken Soup With Shiitake Mushrooms

Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Yields Serves 6

Lemongrass, mushrooms and ginger infuse chicken broth with aromatic intensity in this simple soup.

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