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Memories of Michoacán: Sopa Tarasca

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that one of my favourite souvenirs to bring back from a trip is a recipe of a newly discovered dish.  In Mexico over Christmas and New Year, Neil and I worked out way through a lot of soups – many many versions of chicken tortilla soup which we thoroughly enjoyed comparing, then a total standout soup which we enjoyed after a morning exploring the beautiful town of Pátzcuaro.  Our guide, Carlos, who we were with the day before at the Monarch butterfly sanctuary, had told us not to eat during our time in Pátzcuaro since he knew “just the place” where we could enjoy a typical Michoacán specialty – soap tarasca.  For those of you who are interested, I found a very comprehensive summary of the foods of Michoacán here).

The restaurant in question was located adjacent to a Pemex service station.  We were a little dubious, until we entered and just knew that something good was about to happen…

Isn’t it gorgeous?  The entire ceiling was covered in piñatas and piñata sweets :-)

And that soup? Well, like the restaurant, it didn’t look like much…

It’s even kinda ugly, right? (a side note here, some of the most delicious food isn’t the most attractive…).  But one spoonful of its smokey, spicy goodness and I was hooked. I knew I had to recreate this at home.  Made from a base of white beans and tomatoes, the excitement in this soup comes from the add-ins.  That big dark thing? It’s an ancho chili (a dried poblano chili).  The murky whiteness? It’s queso fresco. In the soup lurk tortilla chips – fresh corn tortillas fried and tossed in at the last minute to preserve their crispness.  It’s what you would call an exciting tomato soup.  Soup with texture. Soup with attitude.

On returning home from our trip, it was with great joy that I discovered that Jen had challenged Kitchen Bootcamp participants this month to SOUPS!

I set about researching this soup and found many versions – both with and without the white beans.  The soup I had enjoyed was most definitely made with white beans, and I really liked the texture they added to the soup – especially for a winter dish. I would definitely gravitate towards the version without beans for the summer.  In the end, I adapted a couple of different recipes to recreate the soup I remembered.

You’ll see I substituted a few ingredients and have suggested other substitutions too, in case you can’t find all the ingredients where you live.  Ancho chilis, though available in Toronto, were not within my reach the day I made this and besides, Neil and I are on a bit of a kick to use up the ingredients we already have in our overflowing pantry – so I used dried chipotle peppers.  You really want something smokey as opposed to simply spicy…

I used dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked for about an hour, again, because I had them in the pantry…

And whilst I could have prepared my own corn tortillas from scratch then fried strips, I used some plain (not salted) tortilla chips I had on hand…

Queso fresco might not be available in your area but you can probably get a fresh mozzarella.  I recommend this over a harder cheese like, say feta, simply because the queso fresco adds some creaminess to the soup as it melts.  Mozzarella will definitely add that creaminess without any overpowering flavour like a sharper cheese would.

Result?

An outstanding success (if I do say so myself LOL!).  Creamy without being too rich, smokey and spicy without overpowering your tastebuds and comforting without wiighing you down, this soup tastes fresh and light, yet totally satisfies.

Want to join us working through the chapters of the Professional Chef? Check out the Kitchen Bootcamp page here and buy The Professional Chef on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

If you liked the gorgeous serving dishes the condiments are served on in this post, I have a great giveaway for you – Restaurantware.com is offering a $100 gift card for one lucky reader. Restaurantware can ship items worldwide!

To enter, simply email me with “My favourite soup” in the subject line and tell me what your favourite soup is.  I need inspiration in this cold weather!

Bonus entry: Tweet the following message and send me a separate email letting me know you did:

I just entered to win a $100 gift card from @bambooware and @eatlivtravwrite. You can too! http://bit.ly/hJy9NT

Contest closes on Friday January 28th at 6pm EST.

(update: The contest is now closed – thanks for entering and congrats to Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen!)

Come join Soup-a-Palooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by Bush’s Beans, Hip Hostess, Pillsbury and Westminster Crackers

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39 Responses to Memories of Michoacán: Sopa Tarasca

  1. Tes January 25, 2011 at 06:10 #

    I am amazed my how colorful and bright this soup look. It seems really fresh and flavourful. What a perfect souvenire!

  2. RJ Flamingo January 25, 2011 at 06:49 #

    I do believe that I have all of these ingredients in my pantry! Definitely going to be supper in the next couple of days. :-)

  3. Yesim January 25, 2011 at 08:10 #

    i love soup really.. all kinda .. and it s nice u to share your different experiences in different places…

  4. Adriana January 25, 2011 at 08:17 #

    I love how the final product looks and can just imagine the wonderful taste. Now I need to find those chiles!

  5. Belinda @zomppa January 25, 2011 at 08:44 #

    How fun and colorful and flavorful!!

  6. Lori Lynn January 25, 2011 at 09:25 #

    Hi Mardi – the soup sounds fantastico! Love how you garnished it, so pretty.
    LL

  7. Kate @ Diethood.com January 25, 2011 at 09:47 #

    I’m staring at the picture of the pinatas – loving it! I am imagining all the yummy goodies in there :). Delicious post all around.

  8. Mary January 25, 2011 at 10:21 #

    I loved Michoacan and Patzcuaro, but I did not have a soup like this! It looks and sounds fantastic.

  9. Natalie January 25, 2011 at 12:14 #

    I am having a soup thing at the moment, can’t get enough. And this one looks and sounds just my cup of tea, can’t wait to try it, thanks!!

  10. Sara @CaffeIna January 25, 2011 at 22:35 #

    I lived in Mexico for some time and I’ve always been impressed by the numerous different soups or variation of traditional ones. I could never get tired. I have never had a sopa tarasca though….it sounds wonderful

  11. Brian @ A Thought For Food January 26, 2011 at 10:08 #

    I know how you feel… I can’t stay away from soup. It’s the only thing keeping me warm in this brutal weather.

    And this Mexican soup is so hearty and has such fantastic flavors.

  12. Ethan January 26, 2011 at 17:10 #

    Yes to Mexican soup, yes to Sopa Tarasca and yes to you making brown soup look so good, well done!

  13. Mike @theflavorjunkie January 26, 2011 at 18:00 #

    Mardi,

    I love being on vacation and loving something I eat and trying to recreate it when I get back home. I also love soup.

    The soup is beautifully coloured and looks really tasty. I could go for a bowl of that right now.

    Great post!

  14. penny aka jeroxie January 26, 2011 at 22:54 #

    Right up my alley. Have been toying with smokey flavours recently as well.

  15. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction January 27, 2011 at 16:32 #

    Love this recipe! Thanks so much for participating in this month’s Kitchen Bootcamp. :)

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite January 31, 2011 at 15:03 #

      You’re so welcome Jen – it was a little bit unconventional but I figured you wouldn’t mind.

  16. Elizabeth January 28, 2011 at 13:14 #

    Thanks! I tweeted and emailed! Soup is a favorite meal I serve once a week here!

  17. Jason January 30, 2011 at 13:50 #

    Picture perfect. One of my favorite soups too. Thanks for the post.

  18. Tami February 1, 2011 at 17:47 #

    Just hafta get some of those piñatas happening in my cantina……they look sensational. Not sure how long the lollies would last though……might be incentive to start sleep walking and partaking of midnight snacks!!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 4, 2011 at 18:25 #

      Yes I do regret not bringing a piñata home – though wasn’t sure it would make it through customs…

  19. Michelle T February 1, 2011 at 22:14 #

    I made this for dinner tonight – it’s delicious! Thanks for posting!

  20. Dawnie February 2, 2011 at 14:57 #

    I stumbled upon your blog today and found this recipe. WoW!!
    Tastes great and couldn’t be easier or quicker to make!! Thanks for sharing a delicious healthy soup. I’m sitting down to a bowl of it right now. YUM :)

  21. cat February 17, 2011 at 23:09 #

    looks like a perfect soup to warm up a cold day! oh, and both of my children would like their bedroom ceilings decorated like that second photo. ;)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Memories of Michoacán: Sopa Tarasca -- Topsy.com - January 25, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Renee J., Mardi. Mardi said: RT @GoodCookDoris: I just entered to win a $100 gift card from @bambooware and @eatlivtravwrite. You can too! http://bit.ly/hJy9NT [...]

  2. Kitchen Bootcamp Roundup – Soups | my kitchen addiction - January 31, 2011

    [...] Sopa Tarasca from eat. live. travel. write. was inspired by Mardi’s recent trip to Mexico. With chiles, smoked paprika, and queso [...]

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