Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sopa de lima (Mexican lime soup) recipe

sopa de lima, Mexican lime soup

Whenever I get together with my Texan friends in New York, we’ll usually cook our favorite dishes from back home. Enchiladas, chicken-fried steak, brisket and chile con queso all make frequent appearances—the Texan cuisine we serve is comfortable and familiar. I don’t mind this at all.

But on a recent visit to a friend’s house, he served me a flavorful chicken soup that was topped with fried tortilla strips, Monterrey Jack cheese, lime slices and avocado. It was a bit like tortilla soup, but tangier and lighter. “Is this Texan?” I asked. “Sort of,” he said. He then explained that this soup—which is called sopa de lima or Mexican lime soup—originally hails from the Yucatan region of Mexico. But he used to eat it growing up in San Antonio, and it reminded him of home.

limes

I loved that soup, but I didn’t think about it again until I began to feel a tickle in my throat and a heaviness in my chest; if I wasn’t careful, a cold could be coming. Clearly, I needed a quick fix, and I figured that sopa de lima—which is chock full of vitamin C from the lime juice—was what I needed to stave off getting sick.

I asked my friend for the recipe, and he pointed me towards one he’d found in the New York Times. It looked good, but it called for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which I don’t think add much flavor to a soup. So I decided to tinker with the recipe and make it with a whole chicken, instead.

I made some other changes, too. Besides its use of lime juice, one of the hallmarks of sopa de lima is that it calls for allspice and cinnamon, flavors not often found in a chicken soup. The recipe I saw called for these spices to be briefly introduced at the end, but I decided that throwing them into the pot from the beginning would give the soup more depth of flavor. I also altered the original recipe by adding a mess of garlic and using the zest from the lime, as well.

If, like me, you’re a big fan of limes, you’ll appreciate this bright, refreshing soup. Now, apparently the limes in the Yucatan have a different flavor than the limes we eat in the U.S. But even if this soup isn’t completely authentic to its source material, it has that Tex-Mex flavor that I love. And whether you’re serving it to guests or eating it for its more salubrious effects, I think you’ll love it, too.

sopa de lima, Mexican lime soup

I’ve provided two recipes, a long version and a short version, in case you don’t have the time to make the soup from scratch. I’m biased, of course, and think the soup will taste better if you start with a whole chicken, but it’s still delicious if you take a short cut with already-made broth and cooked, perhaps leftover, chicken. Just be sure and top the soup with crisp fried tortillas, shredded cheese and creamy avocados, as those flourishes elevate this soothing soup into something festive and special.

Sopa de lima (Mexican lime soup): the long version
For the broth:
1 3- to 4-pound whole chicken, halved
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 whole cloves (or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice)
8 allspice berries (or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice)
2 cinnamon sticks (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
1 leafy stem of cilantro
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

For the soup:
Oil for frying
4 corn tortillas, cut into strips
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
10 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup chopped cilantro, divided
Pinch of cayenne
2 teaspoons lime zest
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack (4 ounces)
2 jalapeños, stems and seeds removed, diced
1 avocado, pitted and peeled, cubed
1 lime, cut into slices

Method:
To make the broth, place the chicken in a large pot, along with the onion, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, cilantro and salt. Cover with 10 cups of water, bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.

While the broth is cooking, make the fried tortilla strips. Heat in a heavy skillet 1/4 inch of vegetable oil to 350 degrees. In batches, fry the tortilla strips until lightly browned and crisp, about a minute. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.

When the broth is done, remove chicken from pot and turn off the heat. After it’s cooled, remove fat and pick the meat off the bones and either shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle chicken with salt to taste. Meanwhile, strain the cooled broth, throwing out the vegetables. Remove the fat from the broth with a gravy separator. Or alternatively, you can take a quart-sized plastic storage bag and pour some broth into it. Snip a bottom corner of the bag and drain the broth, stopping when you get to the fat layer that is on top. (You will probably have to do this in batches). Pour the strained broth back into the pot. You should have about 2 quarts.

To continue making the soup, place the quartered onion and 10 cloves of garlic under the broiler. Cook until blackened, about 10 minutes, turning once. Place the cooked onion and garlic into the blender, along with 1 cup of the strained broth. Blend until smooth and then pour into the soup pot. Stir into the pot the ground cumin, oregano, 1/2 cup of the chopped cilantro, cayenne, and lime zest. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then add the shredded chicken. Cook for 5 more minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings, and then stir in the lime juice.

Serve topped with shredded Monterrey Jack, fried tortilla strips, diced jalapeños, remaining 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro, avocado and lime slices.

Yield: 8 servings

Sopa de Lima (Mexican lime soup): the short version

Ingredients:
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
10 cloves garlic
2 quarts of chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
1 cup chopped cilantro, divided
2 teaspoons lime zest
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (4 ounces)
Crushed tortilla chips
2 jalapeños, stems and seeds removed, diced
1 avocado, pitted and peeled, cubed
1 lime, cut into slices

Method:
Place the quartered onion and 10 cloves of garlic under the broiler. Cook until blackened, about 10 minutes, turning once. Place the cooked onion and garlic into the blender, along with 1 cup of the broth. Pour into a large pot.

Add the rest of the chicken broth to the pot, and stir in the allspice, cinnamon, oregano, cumin, cayenne, 1/2 cup of the chopped cilantro and lime zest. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cook for 5 more minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper to taste. Adjust seasonings, and then stir in the lime juice.

Serve with Monterrey Jack, crushed tortilla chips, diced jalapeños, remaining 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro, avocado and lime slices.

Yield: 8 servings

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51 comments:

Reg said...

Sounds really good. I think it calls for a cold Shiner Long neck!

Kristy said...

This sounds amazing, especially since I love lime so much. (Seriously - I cut them into wedges eat them with a sprinkle of salt.)

Since you're also a fan of lime, I'm curious: have you ever been to La Fonda on Main in San Antonio? They have a margarita that's pretty much just tequila & lime juice. Best margarita I've had (I usually find them too sweet because of the mix most places use).

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Reg--You bet!

Kristy--i haven't been there, but that's my favorite kind of margarita--lots of lime juice and not too sweet.

Janus said...

This soup sounds delicious. How well would the broth be if you made if with three to four pounds of chicken thighs (my favorite part of the chicken)?

Celeste said...

Wow, I've never heard of this soup but it sounds great. I really like lemon juice added to chicken soup right before serving, but I love limes. I've never had avocado in a hot dish before, so this would be interesting.

Your photograph is lovely; the green of the limes is so vibrant.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Janus--I think it would be terrific with chicken thighs. They're my favorite part of the bird, as well!

Celeste--Thank you! Avocados in warm soups are pretty common in Texas and Mexico. They do get warm so it might not be for everyone, but I like the creaminess.

Alan said...

Hi Lisa,
I hate to take umbrage with your wonderful blog, but I'm fairly certain limes are in season from late spring through mid-fall.
I used this as a reference point.

http://www.utextension.utk.edu/publications/spfiles/sp527.pdf

Also, right now in the markets limes are at an exorbitant 2-3 limes for $1 when in the summer they are 8-12 for $1. And the limes in the stores now are almost devoid of juice. It took me $9 worth of limes to get 2 cups of juice last night. I complained to friends working at my local bar last night and they confirmed that their limes from their supplier, which they were paying $20 a case for in the summer, are almost $70 a case now and hard as rocks.

I'm in Dallas, so shipping costs aren't driving the price, it's just a seasonal thing.

But a lovely recipe that I'll be trying as soon as I can get a decent, reasonably priced lime. (Oh, and lemons are just as bad, price wise right now.)

Little Black Car said...

I always make myself chicken soup with loads of lemon juice, garlic, and a little red chile when I've got a cold. Next time, I'll try this.

Heck, I'll try this even if I'm not sick, right?

koshercorvid said...

I'm not usually a fan of soup (I don't like drinking food. And yes, I know how weird that is.) but I'd make an exception for this. I have a soft spot for limes, turned into a desperate and unfulfillable obsession since I left Florida and my two happy little Key lime trees. Supermarket limes are sprayed to keep them greener and slightly underripe. Great for shelf life, and still very yummy, but nothing like the ones I remember. Cooking makes all limes equal, though, much like hot sake all tastes the same.

Michelle Stiles said...

This sounds perfect! Zesty and tangy at its finest!

YUMMY! Thank you!

Lea Ann said...

What a colorful and delicious sounding soup. I'm with you and think I'll try it with a rotisserie chicken. Thanks for sending along the recipe.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Alan--No problem--thanks for correcting me! Limes aren't local here, so all the NYC signs were saying, "All citrus is now in season!" which is probably why I got confused.

Little Black Car--I think it's terrific sick or healthy!

Koshercorvid--I can only imagine how wonderful it was to have Key lime trees in your yard.

Michelle--You're welcome. Hooray for zesty and tangy!

Lu said...

Hey y'all! Either version sounds great and I'm right here "smack dab" in the heart of Texas.
Thanks for sharing!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Lu--You're welcome!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

Ok, that has my name written all over it...

Love love love lime with cilantro...

This will be the highlight of my weekend!

Mary Jo said...

Most importantly - did it work - did it stave off your cold? - Looks like a great recipe - will certainly try it soon.

Mary Jo

Britney said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this recipe! I have been looking for a tortilla soup recipe with a clear, flavorful, lime-y broth instead of the tomato/chili flavored broth commonly found in recipes. I also checked your blog previously, hoping to find something! Now I know I should have been scouring books/Internet for Sopa
De Lima. Can't wait to give it a whirl!

Eleanor said...

wow this is awesome!!

I have a question for you.
I'm living in New York City right now and have been here for the past 3 years. I am originally from Houston, TX and I can't for the LIFE of me find Rotel Tomatoes!
I've noticed that you use them in some of your recipes. Where do you buy yours??

I've always had family members bring me up a dozen cans or so whenever they come and visit.... I'm down to my last precious can and I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it is gone! haha

Cathleen said...

Reminds me of our last trip to Mereda. The soup was delightful. I am looking forward to reproducing it, thanks.

CRL said...

Lisa...great blog! This SA native, one-time NYC/NJ resident, and current Austinite loves your recipes.

@Eleanor: I could find Rotel in NYC in larger groceries or those in more ethnic neighborhoods. Perhaps a trip to Queens might reveal a source.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Rocky Mountain Woman--I agree, those two together are probably my favorite flavor combination.

Mary Jo--It did indeed make me feel better!

Britney--You're very welcome! Hope you enjoy it!

Eleanor--In Manhattan, you should be able to find Ro-Tel at Food Emporium. And I've also seen it at some CVS and Duane Reade stores, too. In the outer boroughs, there's a chain called Bravo that sometimes stocks it, too.

Cathleen--You're welcome. Hope it reminds you of your holiday!

CRL--Thank you!

Joni said...

Eleanor- if there is a Sam's Club they may have it - I buy it here in Anchorage at Sam's by the case and also Walmart sells it too. Good luck. Also I'm sure you can buy it on the internet by the case.

Pink Party Girl said...

It sounds like HOME to me....and I LIVE HERE! (Texas, that is!)
Thanks for sharing a burst of flavor on a pretty cold day!
From Deep in the Heart of West Texas~
Cindi (Pink Party Girl)

TexanNewYorker said...

Eleanor -- You might also check Key Foods and Western Beef in Queens.

lexi said...

Oh wow - I've never heard of this and it looks divine! The perfect thing to make with cheap 'water-marked' limes we have here in OZ at the moment. When I was in the Yucatan, I ate a coriander (cilantro) soup that was incredible. You've just reminded me of it.

Christina said...

This is exactly the kind of Tex-Mex food I love! And I don't feel guilty about it because it's healthy (minus fried tortilla chips, but hey, you gotta live a little!)
Thanks for the reminder that I need to make this soon! :)

Stefani said...

Eleanor, I live in Southern California and I have trouble finding the "extra hot" Rotel(with habanero) so I found some on Amazon.com. I had to buy a case but even with shipping it was worth not having to make my family check them on a plane, or vice versa.

Ginny said...

Thanks for the recipes.
Do you think those little round limes that they sell in Mexican grocery stores would taste more like the Yucatan version? I can get those kind cheap; the only problem is squeezing enough of them to get some juice before my fingers give out.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Joni--Thanks for the tips!

Pink Party Girl--Love West Texas. And this soup will definitely keep you warm!

TexanNewYorker--Yes! I've seen it at Key Foods. Thanks!

Lexi--Cilantro soup sounds amazing!

Christina--Tortilla chips are made with corn, so they can't be that bad for you!

Stefani--That's a great idea!

Ginny--I've never had limes from the Yucatan, but I would bet little Mexican limes are closer in flavor than the Persian limes we usually see at the store.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Did this stave off your cold? Sounds so soothing and delicious. I love the mix of spices.

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

This soup looks like the perfect way to ward off a cold. I love a soup with lots of toppings. I pretty much love anything that you can customize at teh table. But the avocado, lime, cheese and tortillas really make this soup!

BillG said...

Made this tonight, the simple version, and it was fantastic. The spicing is very mysterious and subtle and the lime juice is really fresh-tasting. Where did the broiled-onion technique come from? Is it native to this recipe or have you used it before?

CJ said...

Oh yes! Sopa de lima is hands down my go-to soup when I feel a cold coming on. Hot chicken broth, the spice, the heat of the peppers, the lime......*ahhh* Sooo good.

I love it when I'm not sick too!

Morgan G said...

The only Mexican soup my dad ever taught me how to make was sopa de fideo. I can't wait to whip him up a batch of this!

Ronny said...

This soup sounds great. I have a stupid question. When you blacken the garlic & onion, are you peeling them after they are black or blackening the "meat" of the garlic/onion? Making sure I don't make a mess of it. Thanks.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Tasty Eats at Home--It did make me feel better!

Katie--I'm pretty sure avocado, lime, cheese and tortillas make everything better!

Bill--It wasn't native to the recipe I adapted, but it's a method I've been using lately when making salsas.

CJ--Yes! It's good when you're feeling good or not so good!

Morgan--I bet he'll enjoy it!

Ronny--The onion and garlic are peeled. And there are no stupid questions!

deceiverofmen said...

Eleanor- if you go to food emporium for your rotel, you'll likely find pickled okra and stub's bbq sauce also.

Anonymous said...

Yum! We're always looking for recipes that use limes, as we have a tree in our yard that's amazingly productive, and our limes are very juicy.

And I agree that boneless chicken breast meat doesn't add anything to a recipe - we go with whole chicken or thighs too.

Guest from CA - also a homesick Texan!

Debjani said...

Get better soon !!!

Cookie! said...

I made the soup last night for a couple of dinner guests along with fresh pineapple and black bean salsa and cheese muffins that use masa in place of flour. It was a huge hit! I am not usually a lime kind of girl but this soup was wonderful. BTW, I chose the long way! Thanks so much!

Sarah said...

Excellent recipe (and from Houston, a hello from Tejas)! I was a bit apprehensive at first and thought the lime taste would be too strong, but it's wonderful. It shines through what would still be a good chicken soup and it does feel light. Absolutely delicious when served with avocados and cheese. Food coma begins now.

Melissa Case-DelGaudio said...

I just had this made for me (by someone very special) and I have to say that it was, without exception, one of the best things I have EVER eaten. Served piping hot with an ice-cold margarita on the side? OOH! That was the goodness right there. Thanks so much!

Melinda said...

I made the short version the other day and it was amazing. I'm still getting meals from it and while I normally get bored with leftovers, not this time! When I made it, it was pouring so I didn't feel like going out to the store to get chicken (the only ingredient I didn't have) so I used some chicken breasts I had in the freezer. Since those don't add as much flavor, I decided to season and cook them as I would for chicken fajitas and grill them on my little indoor grill before shredding them and putting them in the soup. It worked really well!

Sadie said...

I've been searching for this recipe since I had a bowl of lime and chili chicken soup in LA twenty years ago!! Limes are a little hard to come by in Southern Tasmania but it's worth the effort. I have a question about roasting garlic. You don't mention whether you peel it. I would normally roast it unpeeled, peel it and puree it. But I tried it unpeeled when I made tomatillo salsa (Tasmanians grow the best garlic and tomatillos so I don't miss lime that much) - they weren't as mushy sweet but had a lovely charred flavour. Which way do you do it? And just for the record we're loving your blackberry cobbler and beaten biscuits.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Sadie--I peel them first, but you could certainly leave leave them unpeeled. Matter of fact, I think I'll try it that way next time!

Rachel said...

Made this yesterday - it's really delicious, especially the next day. One thing I did different was to fry up some masa dough because I didn't have tortillas on hand. Hopefully this comment comes through because I noticed my other comments aren't being posted :-/

Anonymous said...

Made this soup tonight for the in-laws and boy was it a hit. I thought I had cayenne pepper (I didn't) and ended up putting about 2 teaspoons of Frank's Red Hot sauce and that complemented everything nicely and added a nice subtle kick. I will be coming back to this one very frequently.

Thanks!

Shelley said...

sounds amazing - but alas i have some vegos attending as well...
any suggestions for replacing the chicken strips with something?
thanks!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Shelley--Make it with vegetarian broth, and maybe use mushrooms or sliced squash.

Shanda said...

"4 whole cloves (or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice)
8 allspice berries (or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice)"

I am confused by this? cloves aren't listed in the short version? and ground allspice subs for both in the long version? I'm trying to put together a list so I can make this for Friday's dinner :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Shanda--The cloves add flavor to the broth but if you're making the short version, you're using pre-made broth so you don't need that boost. Feel free to add if you like, though! Hope this makes things clear for you.

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