There’s nothing like the warmth of soup to soothe the misery of a cold or flu. Whether it’s a light broth or hearty porridge, it’s a universally nurturing remedy. If mom’s not around to prepare her famous homemade chicken soup, these five Orange County options are the next-best thing.
1. Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen
Known for her fiery island fare and rum cocktails in a cozy setting, Eva Madray, above, also serves up a delightful Trinidadian elixir called callaloo, made with a lobster-and-clam base, spinach, okra, thyme, garlic, shallots, and coconut milk—a beautiful soup with deep, rich flavors. You’ll discover a cup is not nearly enough to satisfy; invest in a bowl. Or several. $5 to $7. 31732 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949-499-6311, evascaribbeankitchen.com
2. Canton Restaurant
Since 1987, this small house of soup has been offering divine bowls of chao ca, a milky-white rice porridge with silky strips of mild whitefish, crowned with freshly shredded ginger and chopped green onions. Each creamy spoonful is like a savory salve—you can feel its restorative power. The tender, light snapper doesn’t dominate the flavor of the porridge. And the ginger and scallions add wonderful zing. Cash only. $6. 8550 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, 714-892-2022
3. Inka Mama’s
Made from scratch daily, the aguadito de pollo isn’t the prettiest soup you’ll ever eat, but don’t let the murky green liquid deter you. It’s just finely pureed cilantro in a shimmering chicken broth with rice, chicken, peas, potatoes, and carrots. Squeeze in a wedge of lime and you’ve got a savory, light Peruvian soup that’s packed with flavor. And don’t forget to slather spicy green aji chili sauce onto some bread—a little heat can help clear your sinuses. $4 to $5. 3930 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, 714-557-6262, other locations in Aliso Viejo Foothill Ranch, and San Clemente, inkamamas.com
4. Bangkok Taste
Need something to revive your muted tastebuds? Tom yum gai soup may be just the trick. Spiked with fragrant lemongrass, galangal, straw mushrooms, dark-meat chicken (you can ask for white), chili, and fish sauce, the soup delivers a potent mix of sour, spicy, and tangy that will bring your senses back to life. Make it a heartier meal by ladling the soup over a bowl of steamed white rice. $8 to $12. 2737 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, 714-532-2216
5. Kappo Sui
For a light, delicate soup, order the zosui at this authentic Japanese pub. It’s beautifully presented in a heavy stone bowl covered with a lid. The thin soup comes with scattered bits of rice and pale yellow swirls of cooked egg, while supple shiitake mushrooms lend a pleasant earthy scent. Finish with a mug of green tea to boost your energy. $7. 20070 Santa Ana Ave., Costa Mesa, 714-429-0141, kapposui.com
Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi
This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue.