A Mound of Soup — Sopa Seca

Have you ever had a mound of soup? Or a “dry soup”? In a Mexican restaurant such a thing might be on the menu, as Mexican cuisine has a class of soups called sopas secas that are dry and can be served as a mound. The “dryness” and “moundability” of the soup comes from a large quantity of thin, short noodles (called fideos) that are added to a thin broth in the last few minutes of cooking. As the noodles cook, they absorb much of the liquid and give the soup its texture and shape.

Making Sopa Seca
Although recipes for sopa seca are probably easy to find on-line or in the library (Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen has one, for example, reprinted here), I usually make it up as I go along, using ingredients that are in season or that I feel like eating. However, the unwavering building blocks for me are the special noodles , tomatoes and chilies.

The first step is to toast the noodles in a bit of oil or butter over medium-low heat until they are golden brown, 5 minutes or so. Set aside.

Next make the liquid base. For my most recent batch, I blended a large can of tomatoes and two chipotle chilies (from a can) until smooth. I set the blender aside and got to work on the vegetables and beans. In a large saucepan, I sauteed some chopped white onion and diced carrots in vegetable oil over medium heat until tender, then added a few cloves of minced garlic and stirred for about a minute. I poured in the tomato-chipotle puree, stirred a few times, and then added a can of drained chickpeas and enough water to reach the desired consistency. If I had had any Mexican oregano I would have added a pinch of that too.

Five minutes before eating, I determined how much soup will be eaten that day, and pour d the portion that was not going to be eaten into a heat-safe container to cool. The reason this step was necessary is that the noodles continue to absorb water during storage, thus eliminating any resemblance to soup. I add the noodles that would be eaten that day to the saucepan, stirred, and let them cook until soft (about 5 minutes). To serve, I topped with some crumbled queso anejo (a hard, pungent cheese) and some minced fresh cilantro.

Storing Sopa seca
It is important to store any leftover noodles and broth in separate containers. Put the extra broth in one container, and the extra noodles in another container. When reheating the soup on a later day, combine the dry and wet at the beginning of the reheating process to give the noodles time to hydrate and soften.

New feature note: With this post I’m starting to include a random link from my archive in each post. This isn’t To create randomness, I put my all of my post URLs into a spreadsheet and randomly sorted the collection (using the RAND() function). The first random link from the archive is Burrito Origins (February, 2006), one of my favorite posts.

Technorati tags: Mexico : vegetarian : Food


  1. Marc,
    the Mexican sopa seca stems from the Italian Zuppa (or, also: pasta)asciutta as opposite to the pasta in brodo, or Mexican: sopa aguada.

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