Thai soups are another favorite. The classic coconut milk and lemon grass concoctions are phenomenal. Chinese sweet and sour, won ton, egg drop, and sizzling rice soups are all awesome. Just as the salsa is a common barometer of what your meal's going to taste like in a Mexican restaurant, the sweet & sour soup serves a similar function in a Chinese restaurant. If it's great, you're probably in for a treat for the entire meal.
I believe soups are a state of mind (a phrase I stole from author Kathleen Flinn, but it's absolutely true). There aren't a lot of rules, and once you know your way around a stock pot, all's fair, assuming you think through the flavor combinations. Last night's soup was going to be based around a package of buckwheat Soba noodles that I'd picked up over the weekend at a shop in The Ferry Building, on San Francisco's Embarcadero. It would be chicken based, with non fat chicken broth and Better Than Bouillon chicken broth concentrate, the combination of which makes for a rich tasty base. I commonly use a white onion with this variety of soup, which I slice wafer thin and soak in cold water for 30 minutes, before adding it to the stock pot. This is a technique that comes from making pho, and makes for a less pungent onion that cooks faster in the broth. Cilantro and basil for flavor, a chunk of chopped ginger, as well as a teaspoon each of red and green curry paste. The combination of the two makes for a richer taste and it's an acceptable "hot." I also used a can of water chestnuts because it sounded like a good idea. No other spices, no salt or pepper, no soy sauce, just what's listed below. I used chicken and chicken broth(s), but the other flavors in the soup would probably lend themselves to a more vegan variety, should you desire.
1 lb chicken boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 bunch of basil, chopped
1 medium white onion, sliced in half, then very thinly sliced
small (1 x 2") piece of ginger, peeled, chopped fine
small can of water chestnuts, drained
49 oz can of Swanson's fat-free chicken stock, plus a can of water
1 tablespoon of "Better Than Bouillon" chicken stock concentrate
1 teaspoon each of red and green Thai curry paste
Package of buckwheat Soba Noodles
Garnishes of sliced jalapeno, limes, Sriacha hot pepper sauce.
Marinate the chicken for an hour with an Indian tandoori spice (if you have some ... lemon pepper, a light curry powder, paprika, or plain salt and pepper works fine)
Soak the sliced onion in cold water for 30 minutes
Cook the chicken in a frying pan, 'til it's still a little pink in the middle. Chop into 1/2" chunks
In a medium stock pot, bring the stock, concentrate, and can of water to a rolling boil over medium high heat
Add the chicken chunks, ginger, curry pastes, return to a boilAdd cilantro, basil, water chestnuts, return to a boil
Drain the water from the soaking onion, add to the pot, lower the heat and bring to a simmer
Cook the noodles
Preparing Soba noodles is like many things in life ... very easy, when you know how to do it. I use my pasta pot with the colander insert, which makes draining and rinsing them easy. Boil 8 cups of water, add the noodles and return to a boil. When the water gets close to boiling over, add another cup of cold water, return to a boil, simmer 5 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water.
Serve the noodles in a soup bowl, ladle soup on top, provide garnishes and toppings. Great stuff, works well for leftovers, lo-cal, virtually no fat, major flavors.