Dining

Souper Stars

A brief guide to the best soups in NYC
Matzo ball soup at Russ & Daughters | Photo: Tasting Table

Something happens, biologically speaking, around this time of year: Your body begins to demand sustenance in the form of hot liquid. It might start as a craving for something as simple and comforting as matzo ball soup, but soon, you will wake in the night, crying out for spicy hand-pulled noodle soups and thick Persian vegetable stews.

Don't be afraid. This is to be expected in the height of soup season. Embrace your brothy desires and satisfy them with our guide to the city's best bowls.

Occidental Red Corn Pozole at Cosme ($22): Enrique Olvera gives the Mexican hangover killer an upmarket makeover by using freshly nixtamalized, ruby-hued Occidental corn (a limited-edition breed the chef received exclusive permission to use from a professor at the University of Guadalajara) in a clean, rust-colored pork broth laced with guajillo and ancho chiles. The broth is poured tableside into a bowl containing thinly sliced lettuce, radishes, Mexican oregano, shredded pork cheek and pasilla powder for kick. Ultra-crisp house-made tostadas and lime come on the side for DIY garnishing.

Matzo Ball Soup at Russ & Daughters Cafe ($8): Fresh out of Jewish grandmothers? Grab a seat at this nouveau retro-styled lunch counter, the newish sit-down offshoot of the Lower East Side appetizing institution. The silky, greaseless chicken broth is loaded with fresh carrots, celery, hunks of chicken and a supremely tender matzo ball, then showered with chopped parsley (it's also available to go at the original shop nearby). Order a housemade knish on the side; its accompanying sinus-clearing spicy mustard (also made in house) will thoroughly destroy any remnants of the sniffles.

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Mount Qi Pork Noodles in Soup at Xi'an Famous Foods ($6.50 to $7.50): Jason Wang's mini hand-pulled noodle empire is a reliable source for all manner of warming soups, thanks to his liberal deployment of aggressive flavor agents like Szechuan peppercorns and toasted cumin. The Mount Qi Pork noodles (a vegetarian version is also available) feature deeply seasoned bits of pork belly floating in a fiery red broth laced with soy sauce, black vinegar and whole pods of star anise, along with seemingly endless strands of wide-pulled wheat noodles. Our recommendation: Tuck your napkin into your collar and save yourself a dry-cleaning bill later.

Ash Reshteh at Taste of Persia ($6 to $14): Know going into Taste of Persia that it occupies one half of an anonymous slice joint in the Flatiron, so you won't exactly be lounging with your lunch. Do not let this deter you from experiencing Iranian chef Saeed Pourkay's ash reshteh, an outrageously thick, moss-colored soup-stew fortified with five kinds of beans, onions, herbs and noodles, topped with a whiz-bang combination of crispy fried garlic and onion, fried mint and kashk, a thin, tangy yogurt. It's a traditional New Year's dish in Iran, but we'll happily eat it all winter long.

Mera-Mera Dip Soba at Cocoron ($13.50): This Japanese gem specializes in all things soba, and though the cartoon-adorned menu can seem overwhelming (Cold! Warm! Cold Veg! Warm Veg! Dip!), the Mera-Mera Dip is a perennial favorite. The dish arrives in two parts: a plate of perfectly chewy buckwheat noodles on one side, and on the other, a bubbling cauldron of rich sesame and chile-laced "sauce" bobbing with bits of minced chicken, bok choy and scallions. Dip your noodles, swirl briefly, then slurp. Once the noodles are gone, a waiter will arrive with a teapot of hot soba water to turn the sauce into soup, so you can enjoy every literal last drop.

Hot Borscht at B&H Dairy ($4.50 cup, $5 bowl): This 40s-era luncheonette specializes in all things classic kosher, and the soups (which also include old-school options like mushroom barley and lima bean), though unflashy, are served satisfyingly hot alongside two thick slices of house-made challah. The neon red borscht is stocked full of diced beets, potatoes and cabbage, with bay leaves and dill to temper the sweetness of the root vegetables. A chilled version is available during the summer—something (else) to look forward to.

Cosme 35 E. 21st St. New York NY 10010 212-913-9659 Russ & Daughters Cafe 127 Orchard St. New York NY 10002 212-475-4881 Russ & Daughters 179 E. Houston St. New York NY 10002 212-475-4880 Xi'an Famous Foods 81 St. Mark's Pl. New York NY 10003 212-786-2068 Xi'an Famous Foods 67 Bayard St. New York NY 10013 Xi'an Famous Foods 24 W. 45th St. New York NY 10036 212-786-2068 Xi'an Famous Foods 2675 Broadway New York NY 10025 212-786-2068 Xi'an Famous Foods 328 E. 78th St. New York NY 10075 Xi'an Famous Foods 14 E. 34th St. New York NY 10016 Xi'an Famous Foods 86 Beadel St. Brooklyn NY 11222 Xi'an Famous Foods 648 Manhattan Ave. Brooklyn NY 11222 Xi'an Famous Foods 41-28 Main St. Queens NY 11355 212-786-2068 Taste of Persia 12 W. 18th St. New York NY 10011 917-592-3467 Cocoron 61 Delancey St. New York NY 10002 212-925-5220 B&H Dairy 127 2nd Ave. New York NY 10003 212-505-8065

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