There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a nice warm bowl of…wait. Is that soup? Or is it bisque? Or may be minestrone? What’s the difference? A soup is any type of food that is cooked in and served with its liquid.
Beyond that basic definition, there are different names for the different dishes, mostly depending on the ingredients used.
Strain the solids out of soup, and the resulting liquid is broth, bouillon, or stock. When that broth is clarified, it is called consommé. Court bouillon is a broth flavored with herbs and other aromatics that is used as a poaching liquid.
When stock is greatly concentrated, it becomes a fumet or glace, and is used to flavor other dishes or form the basis of sauces. Scotch broth is not actually a broth, but rather a soup made with barley, lamb and vegetables. Thick soups with chunky meats and larger pieces of vegetables are stews.
Bisque is a rich, thick soup, usually cream based, with seafood. Lobster bisque is a common type of bisque. She-crab soup is actually crab bisque usually flavored with sherry. Other popular seafood soups include chowders, which are chunky, thick soups made with seafood.
New England style clam chowder is cream or milk based, while Manhattan style clam chowder has a tomato base. Cioppino is a chunky and spicy Italian stew of fish, shellfish and tomatoes.
In France, you might find Billy bi, a soup of mussels, cream, wine, and onions; or bouillabaisse, a thick seafood stew which includes garlic, olive oil, herbs and saffron. Bourride is another Mediterranean soup with fish; it often features saffron, is thickened with egg yolks and is flavored with a garlic mayonnaise.
From the Chinese we have a number of popular soups. Egg Drop soup is a thickened chicken broth with strands of cooked egg suspended in it. Wonton soup contains small meat dumplings in a chicken broth. Bird’s nest soup contains real bird nests, those of a specific Asian bird.
A popular Japanese soup is miso, made with fermented soy beans.
The classic Russian soup is borscht. It gets its distinctive coloring from beets, and is served with a spoon full of sour cream on top.
From Italy, we also get minestrone, a thick vegetable soup which contains pasta and beans.
From the American South, we get chicken and dumplings, a stew of chicken and dumplings made from flour. Brunswick stew is a thick stew made from various meats including chicken, pork, and originally squirrel, along with tomatoes, corn, lima beans and other vegetables. Gumbo is a traditional stew made with okra and thickened with sassafras.
This list just begins to scratch the surface of all the many different and wonderful meals that can be served in a bowl.