Unusual Soup Traditions from Around the World

BY Joanna ON 21 Jun 2024

Unusual Soup Traditions from Around the World

Soup is a universal comfort food, enjoyed by cultures across the globe in a myriad of forms. While many soups are familiar and beloved, there are several unique and unusual soup traditions that reflect the rich diversity of culinary practices worldwide. From ingredients that might surprise you to preparation methods steeped in history, these unusual soup traditions offer a fascinating glimpse into the world’s varied food cultures.

In the same way that myths about certain foods or medications can spread, such as the incorrect belief that Gabapentin causes hair loss, misconceptions about unusual ingredients and cooking methods in traditional soups often arise. These unique soups, like Gabapentin, prove that initial impressions can be misleading and that deeper exploration often reveals surprising truths and benefits. Today, we will not be looking at your regular winter soup recipe - instead, we’ll be looking at unusual soup traditions from across the world.

1. Bird’s Nest Soup (China)

Bird’s Nest Soup is one of the most luxurious and unusual soups in Chinese cuisine. Made from the nests of swiftlets, small birds found in Southeast Asia, this delicacy is renowned for its texture and supposed health benefits. The nests are composed of hardened saliva, which, when soaked in water, becomes gelatinous.

Preparation and Tradition: The preparation of Bird’s Nest Soup is meticulous. The nests are cleaned and soaked before being simmered in a light broth with rock sugar. Often served as a dessert soup, it is believed to promote skin health, boost the immune system, and increase longevity. This soup has been a part of Chinese culinary tradition for over 400 years, often enjoyed during special occasions and by the elite.

2. Kiburu (Tanzania)

Kiburu is a traditional soup from the Chaga people of Tanzania. It’s made from bananas, beans, and volcanic ash, giving it a distinctive and earthy flavor. This unusual combination might sound strange, but it is a staple food in the Kilimanjaro region.

Preparation and Tradition: The bananas are boiled and mashed, then mixed with beans and volcanic ash, which acts as a leavening agent and provides minerals. The mixture is cooked until it reaches a soup-like consistency. Kiburu is not just a meal but a symbol of the Chaga people’s ingenuity and adaptation to their environment.

3. Menudo (Mexico)

Menudo is a traditional Mexican soup made from cow’s tripe (stomach lining) and hominy (dried corn kernels). It is often prepared for special occasions and is famously known as a hangover cure.

Preparation and Tradition: Menudo requires a long cooking time to tenderize the tripe, often simmered for hours with onions, garlic, and spices such as oregano and red chili. It is typically served with lime, chopped onions, cilantro, and crushed chili peppers. Menudo is a communal dish, often enjoyed during family gatherings, festivals, and celebrations.

4. Shchi (Russia)

Shchi is a traditional Russian soup made from cabbage. While that may not sound unusual, what sets Shchi apart is its variety of versions, including a sour variant made with fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) and a version made with nettles or sorrel, which gives the soup a tangy flavor.

Preparation and Tradition: The basic ingredients include cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and meat (usually beef or pork). The sour version, known as "sour shchi," incorporates sauerkraut, which adds a distinctive tang. Shchi has been a staple of Russian cuisine since the 9th century and is often enjoyed with rye bread and a dollop of sour cream.

5. Caldo de Piedra (Mexico)

Caldo de Piedra, or "stone soup," is an ancient Mexican soup with roots in the indigenous Chinantec culture. What makes this soup unusual is its cooking method, where hot stones are used to boil the ingredients.

Preparation and Tradition: Ingredients such as fish, shrimp, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and chili are placed in a gourd or clay bowl. Hot stones, heated over an open fire, are then placed into the bowl to cook the soup. This method imparts a unique flavor and is a communal activity that fosters a sense of community and tradition among the Chinantec people.

6. Ewedu Soup (Nigeria)

Ewedu soup, also known as jute leaf soup, is a traditional Nigerian soup made from finely chopped jute leaves. It has a slimy texture similar to okra and is often served with fufu or pounded yam.

Preparation and Tradition: The jute leaves are blended or finely chopped and cooked with locust beans, ground crayfish, and a mix of spices. The soup is often served alongside other traditional Nigerian dishes and is particularly popular among the Yoruba people. Ewedu soup is prized for its nutritional benefits and is a staple in many Nigerian households.

7. Fanesca (Ecuador)

Fanesca is a traditional Ecuadorian soup made only during the Holy Week leading up to Easter. This hearty soup is a blend of grains, beans, and dried salt cod, symbolizing the richness of Ecuadorian agriculture and the religious significance of Lent.

Preparation and Tradition: Fanesca is made with a mixture of 12 different grains and beans, representing the 12 apostles. Ingredients include corn, fava beans, lentils, peas, and squash, all cooked in a milk base with dried salt cod. The soup is garnished with hard-boiled eggs, fried plantains, and fresh herbs. Fanesca is a communal dish that brings families together, reflecting the country’s agricultural bounty and religious heritage.

8. Sup Mang Cua (Vietnam)

Sup Mang Cua, or Vietnamese crab and asparagus soup, is a delicate and flavorful soup that highlights the fresh ingredients of Vietnam’s coastal regions. This soup is often served at banquets and celebrations.

Preparation and Tradition: The soup is made with crab meat, white asparagus, and a clear broth thickened with cornstarch. Egg whites are often added to create a silky texture. Sup Mang Cua is seasoned with fish sauce and garnished with cilantro and green onions. This soup is a testament to Vietnam’s culinary creativity, using simple ingredients to create an elegant and delicious dish.

9. Goulash (Hungary)

Goulash is a famous Hungarian soup, but its unusual nature comes from its combination of soup and stew elements. Made with beef, vegetables, and paprika, it is both hearty and rich in flavor.

Preparation and Tradition: Goulash is prepared by slowly cooking beef with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes in a broth flavored with paprika. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, creating a deeply satisfying dish. Goulash has been a part of Hungarian cuisine since the 9th century and remains a beloved national dish, often served with a side of bread or dumplings.


These unusual soup traditions from around the world highlight the incredible diversity of culinary practices and the deep cultural significance of soup in various societies. Each soup tells a story of its origins, ingredients, and the people who have cherished it for generations. Whether you’re adventurous enough to try making Bird’s Nest Soup or prefer the earthy flavors of Kiburu, exploring these unique soups can offer a delicious and enlightening journey into the heart of global food culture. So, the next time you crave something comforting and flavorful, consider stepping outside the box and trying one of these unusual soup traditions.