Whenever I make soup or chilli, or stew, or some hearty dish in a bowl, I am never content to simply spoon it into a bowl and sit down and eat it. More than the fact that it is warming and healthy and delicious, and more than the fact that I am typically so excited to eat it, more than that, I just want to cover it in all the toppings.
Soup is better with toppings.
I think I first got into this back in my travelling days when I was going through Southeast Asia. I remember being in Vietnam and sitting at the table and the server brought this whole basket of thing to my table. There was coriander and fresh Asian herbs, heaps of greens and fresh chilis, spring onion, bean sprouts and wedges of lime. I was slightly perplexed, until I looked around and could see everyone’s bowls mounded high with these toppings. All the delicious soups and broths in asian culture, like Pho, or Tom Yum Soup are only half the delight without the special toppings you get to pile on top.
And so with this new outlook on soups, the flavour and creation of the dish itself becomes like a vehicle for carrying all the incredible toppings, and is just a strong foundation you lay down to layer up on top of later. It’s important. It gives you the basis for building toppings and choosing flavors, for finding complimentary textures and for just finishing up that overall delightful bowl of warmth and goodness. Let us not underestimate or downplay the goodness of a bowl of soup in the freezing cold of winter, toppings or no toppings.
With that foundational importance in mind, I’m building this smoky sumac stew. I had a bit of a love affair with sumac several months ago, when I finally found it at the health food store and got to use it. Up until then I had heard of it, and read about it and seen it online in several recipes, but had never been able to track it down. And then I found it and didn’t really leave it alone for a while. Like let’s just talk about those Sumac Wedges I made . . .
And now, after a bit of a hiatus, I have taken the delicious, slight citrusy sumac flavour and paired it with smoky, spicy flavours of vegetarian chilli: hearty veggies, warming sauce, heaps of flavour and that hot, spicy kick. And then of course piled it with toppings: corn chips, avocado, broccoli sprouts and who could forget crusty bread for dipping. But really, you can pile it high with whatever you like, because you will certainly have a great foundation!