Locro, the country’s traditional celebratory stew, is proof that Argentina knows what it is doing in the soup department, but a recent influx in foreign ingredients and cooking methods has helped elevate Buenos Aires’ comfort food game to the next level.
Here’s a healthy helping of tantalizing Filipino, Vietnamese, French and Peruvian soup specialties that warm the soul and add a little spice to BA’s grey winter days.
Chef Christina Sunae started putting phó on Buenos Aires table tops when she opened her closed door restaurant Cocina Sunae in 2009. Two years ago, the restaurant moved to Calle Humboldt in the form of Sunae Asian Cantina, with an extensive menu of delicate house specialties. Eventually letting go of the phó and trying other surprising Southeast Asian soups like Filipino Sinigang na Isda has proven a difficult yet rewarding journey. The sweet and sour pineapple and fish broth topped with a crispy pan-seared corvina fillet was well worth the wait. Served with a side of rice, it was the type of meal that you wanted to take with you to outer space.
After a month of culinary research in a country where she has strong roots — the Philippines, Sunae has concocted two new soups for this winter.
Batchoy is a light pork based soup from the emerging street food capital Iloilo, in the Western Visayas. Infused with spring onions, bok choy and all kinds of magic, the fragrant broth contains a soft boiled egg and is topped with roasted garlic and thick panceta, “oven baked for it to be softer”, the chef specifies. Served with wholesome homemade miki noodles, this subtle dish will take you to your happy place.
The other addition at Sunae Asian Cantina for the winter is Binakol Soup Dumpling, a visually stunning adaptation of a classic Filipino chicken soup that is served Shanghai-style, in a dumpling the size of your face. Filled with slowly simmered coco water, lemongrass, free range chicken and ginger broth, this dumpling is served with two straws so that you can loudly sip your soup with your hands-free to clap in delight. Once the liquid is gone, you’re left with a consistent flavorful chicken stew. All the better.
Sunae Asia Cantina| Humboldt 1626 | Palermo Hollywood
Monday to Thursday 8 pm to 11:30 pm, Friday and Saturday until midnight
Cash, Visa and Mastercard debit and credit
This new Vietnamese street food joint set up shop in the historical San Telmo market, in what used to be the bar notable La Coruña. Buddies Kevin, Matías and Pablo (also co-owner at Gull, up in Palermo Hollywood) refurbished the place for the opening of Saigón last December, turning it into an open kitchen with room for 40 people along its wooden tables and benches and some stools at the kitchen counter. Wednesday through Sunday, Saigón is open from noon until around midnight, which is a great option for late lunch or early dinner. Their selection of beer and dry cider(!) on tap is impressive even in a city ravaged by the beer and burger trend. If you’re not sure which to pick ask for a sample — they’ll hand you over a little sample glass without blinking an eye. More of a wine person? Typically they only stock rosé but ask about the corkage fee if you’re in the mood for wine and willing to cross over to the supermarket.
Here’s the drill for when you walk into Saigón:
- You go straight to the cash and order a pint of IPA, or whatever craft you’re into, and a Bo Bun Hue soup. The six-hour simmer of sweet & spicy beef and lemongrass soup could be the reason why your mouth is connected to your brain.
- You give your name -or a fictional one- to the person at the cash, you slip a bill into the tip jar and grab your beer and a stool at the counter of the open kitchen.
- You take notice of the high ceiling and the century-old tainted glass windows, woodwork and the original metal staircase.
- As you’re distracted by the hanging lanterns, the kitchen rings the bell and yells out your real or made up name to hand over your deliciously versatile Bo Bon Hue, intricately fragrant Pho or mildly spicy pork and prawn Phnom Penh soup.
Saigón | Bolívar 986| San Telmo Market
Tuesday 8pm to 12 am, Wednesday to Sunday 12pm to 12am. Monday closed
Cash and debit
This French bakery, café and restaurant opened on the corner of Gorriti and Malabia five years ago to stand out as “traditional, fresh, generous and tasty” food co-owner Anaïs Gasset remembers. One of the best sellers to come out of chef Morgan Chauvel’s kitchen this winter is the classic onion soup, an essential on anybody’s rainy day list. “We keep it simple to focus on the flavor of the caramelized onions, a roux for texture and croûtons with melted Gruyère for the full effect”, Gasset explains. Using neither beef or chicken in the stock, Cocu’s onion soup is a fitting veggie option. And generous it is indeed: the stringy Gruyère melts over the burning hot terra cotta dish filled to the rim.
Fun fact about this place, Cocu means cuckold in French, a victim of infidelity, or cornudo here in Argentina –with an extra emphasis on the ‘R’– in local jargon. In Marcel Pagnol’s French cinema classic “The Baker’s Wife”, the breadmaker is so passionate about baking that he starts neglecting his marital affairs and his wife slams the door on him, running off with another man. Depressed and lonely, the baker stops making bread, so the village schemes to reunite the couple in order to get their baguette back. Inspired by this myth, owners Gasset and Chauvel created their own story where Marion slams the door on cuckold baker Laurent and in reference to it, you’ll find wooden doors used in the decoration all across the restaurant.
Apart from the alluring French onion soup, there’s also a featured soup of the week, on top of all the bakery goods, sandwiches, quiches and other dishes prepared daily. All can be accompanied by fresh juices, smoothies, wine or beer.
Cocu Boulangerie | Malabia 1510 | Palermo Soho
Monday to Friday 9 am to 8pm, weekends and holidays 10 am to 8 pm
This Huancayo bull statue with dollar bills and a minivan on its head is reason enough to head out to newly opened Quechua restaurant in Abasto.
But **Attention seafood junkies** you also really want to have the chupe de langostinos, a thick shrimp based soup, heavily loaded with prawns, catch of the day (corvina in this case) and Andean root vegetables. Topped with an egg – sunny side up – and typical watercress-like herb huacatay, this traditional recipe uses the starch released from the simmered rice grains to bind the soup in a beautifully effective winter antidote.
Chupe is an autochthonous specialty from Arequipa in the South of Peru that chef and co-owner Julio Marin adapted for a younger palate and the seasonal produce available in Buenos Aires produce. Trained in Lima’s iconic Rosa Náutica restaurant, on the piers of Miraflores, Marin moved to Bogotá to open the Colombian branch of the seafood institution, then to Buenos Aires 7 years ago, where he became executive chef of the now closed Rosa Náutica of Puerto Madero. He opened Quechua last December with his two brothers where he serves gourmet Nikkei and traditional specialties at regular family restaurant prices.
“Peruvian cuisine has influences from Africa, Asia, Europe and from all over America, but what makes it so distinctive is its native cuisine. Chupe is a classic indigenous recipe”. It is as tasty as it is colorful with bright yellow ají mirasol putting a bit of Peruvian gold in this classic fare of the Andes. The coastal equivalent of chupe is parihuela de mariscos, a lighter seafood version of the Andean stew, like a Peruvian bouillabaisse.
Portions are colossal and are served with warm homemade cocoa and raisin buns. “We work only with fresh ingredients, so there are some items that we aren’t preparing right now. We aren’t making caldo de gallina (a special form of chicken soup) at the moment because the preparation is very time-consuming and the actual poultry is hard to find. Most restaurants use chicken instead of hen and it’s a completely different taste. So if I want an authentic caldo de gallina I go to La Catedral del Pisco on Corrientes.”
Off we go then.
Quechua Restaurante & Sushi Bar | Pasaje Carlos Gardel 3163| Abasto
Thursday to Tuesday, 12pm to 1am
Cash and Visa debit and credit
“Our clientele is mainly from Peru but we are getting more and more Porteños, especially at night”, manager Sara Roldan explains in the enormous cherry red dining room decorated with framed pictures of tourist destinations of the Andean country. The turnover of tables is constant in this long gone theater turned 150 seat dining room. “A lot of people come for the daily specials,” Roldan adds. At AR $100 for an appetizer, main course and a glass of juice, who can blame them. “But many people also come for the caldo de gallina because they are sure to find it here and that it will be exactly like back home.”
Prepared fresh daily, chef Felix Chavez explains that this soup requires a lot of time and the right ingredients. “The base is ginger, carrots, celery, and a chicken hen. Not [any] chicken. We use double breasted red hen. Egg yolk is added once the soup comes to a boil to give it its creamy texture.” Lemon, dried salted corn kernels, fresh chopped shallots and pure rocoto paste come with the soup to adapt to your taste buds. The hard boiled egg, hen and noodles at the bottom of the bowl ensure that you get your fill while ridding you of the winter cold. This is one of the most typical criollo Peruvian fares. You’ll find caldo de gallina in every village, from the coast to the Amazon through the Andes. A significant perk of this concoction is that it also has a reputation for being a hangover remedy.
La Catedral del Pisco | Corrientes 3126 | Abasto
Tuesday to Sunday, 12pm to 1 am
Cash and cards
These are but a few of many soup options in BA that we know are definitely worth leaving your cozy depto for. They’ll put some warmth into a cold winter day or some candlelit comfort on a rainy night and eventually perhaps even cure your hangover.