Imagine that tingly feeling on your tongue when you first savour a spoonful of sour cabbage soup. You are then tasked with eating the fermented leaves of the cabbage, which offers this satisfying crunch with every bite.
When you eat sour cabbage soup, the acidic taste combined with that touch of spice, inevitable releases serotonin. That's why I like to call this dish, sour happiness in a bowl.
And if you think the pleasure of eating sour cabbage soup stops here, think again. With less than 100 calories per portion, this is a go-to dieting dish, especially in Eastern Europe. In fact, while Russia might pride itself in having the sour cabbage soup on their traditional meal repertoire, in Romania we specifically call this "the diet soup".
However, if you just want your taste buds to reach temporary nirvana, I suggest you add a side of crusty bread on the side of the sour cabbage soup. The salty and full-bodied flavour of the whole grain bread, combined with the freshness of the sour cabbage soup will result in a satisfying lunch.
Soups represent the embodiment of comfort foods during the cold season, but what makes the sour cabbage soup so special, is that its freshness and acidity makes it perfect hot or cold. This means that you enjoy this soup during the summer months too, making it incredibly revigorating during a long summer day.
Where did fermented cabbage come from?
Fermented foods have a long history in many cultures, with sauerkraut being one of the most well-known instances of traditional fermented moist cabbage side dishes.
I find it interesting that we associate sauerkraut with Germany because it is a German word. However, you'll be surprised to know that this dish did not originate in Germany. There are many claims over the origin of sauerkraut. Some say it was Emperor Genghis Khan brought it to Europe while others say it actually originated from China and it was the Tatars who brought it to Europe.
Back in the days, we had no ways of preserving our vegetables for a prolonged period of time. With no refrigeration and infrastructure to transport foods fast, people used to ferment food in order to preserve it. This simple dish was even used during lengthy sea voyages, as it proved to prevent scurvy, thanks to its high content of Vitamin C.
How to make sour cabbage soup?
To attain the right sour flavour with this soup, you must use the right time cabbage. In Germany, this is sauerkraut or fermented cabbage. Ensure you don't use pickled cabbage as that is usually done in a type of acidic brine (e.g. vinegar). Using vinegary cabbage will result in a disappointing soup which is far too acidic to eat.
This simple dish asks for sour cabbage (I use half a cabbage, around 500 grams), onion, boiling water, a touch of chili and a little oil. That's all there is to it.
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But sometimes simple is best: as the fermented cabbage is the star attraction of the dish, you should only use a little onion and chili to further the sour flavour and make it dance in your mouth.
Fry the chopped onion in the little oil, add the chopped sour cabbage, the boiling water, the chili powder and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. When ready, taste it to ensure it's not too sour for you. If you find it too much, add a little more water and simmer for another 5 minutes. Repeat until you reach the right level of sourness you are comfortable with. I personally love my soup very sour.
Serve it on its own, hot or cold or with a side of crusty bread for some added crunch. Enjoy!
This recipe has been developed entirely by Yuzu Bakes. Any resemblance with other recipes is purely coincidental.