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Six Spicy Soups in SF to Make Your Cold Take a Hike

The weekend birria at Gallardo's is here to help. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

A number of folks have come down with lame colds and even worse, the flu (’tis the season, ugh). While some people like a mild, soothing chicken soup when they’re illin’, others like a spicy-ass soup to wake up your tastebuds, get you sweating, and clear your sinuses. For my compatriots in the latter camp, here are six places around town where you can get your spicy soup on and hopefully start feeling human again, whether you’re sick or just hungover.

 

Birria from Gallardo’s

You can find awesome birria all over town, but Gallardo’s is famous for their weekend batch (careful, they run out!)—and here’s your excuse to check out their new location on 18th Street. The deep, smoky, rich, chile-laden broth here is the business, and you can either order your birria with the lamb already in the bowl, or on the side (“al horno”), which makes it easier to place pieces of the slow-roasted lamb in the housemade tortillas, and then dunk it all into the broth. Be sure to load up the soup with the onions, chile, cilantro, oregano, and a squirt of lime that all come in stacked bowls on the side. Pro tip: if you get the large al horno, ask if you can order more of the broth to go, and you’ll have a second meal at home, easy—the portion is huge.

 

Rasam fire broth from Dosa

This broth is brilliant, it’s almost like an elixir, packed with tamarind and turmeric and mustard seeds and yes, red chile. At its base, it’s a lentil and tomato soup, but it's so much more than that. It’s also such a pleasure to pick up the bowl and bring it to your face. Inhale. Ahhhhhh. This broth is the picture of restorative. Pro tip: I have ordered it to go, and had them double it since it’s a smaller portion.

 

Pozole from Green Chile Kitchen

Now, I love their green chile stew, but when a cold strikes, it’s time to go for the red chile chicken pozole. There are some excellent pozoles around town, but I like the fact that GCK uses quality chicken--the bites of chicken are juicy and savory, and the soup comes with hominy, onion, and cilantro. Pro tip: they actually serve the pozole at Chile Pies just down the street, which means you can skip the usually long lines at GCK and for a bonus, you also get a little green chile biscuit to go with it.

 

Spicy miso ramen from Ramen Underground

There are two Ramen Underground locations, the FiDi one and a newer location in Japantown, which has a much more extensive menu (but it's cash only!). The spicy miso ramen is the way to go: it comes with mushrooms, spinach, and I say up the ante and get the soft-boiled egg and extra pork chashu. It’s the perfect size, and the noodles stay springy until the end. Pro tip: since the slices of pork come a little chilled, be sure to submerge ’em immediately to the bottom of the bowl to warm them up.

 

Soondubu jjigae at My Tofu House

You feel like hell? It’s time for the cauldron: order the #1 soft tofu soup with beef, and if you can handle it, get it spicy, because hey, we’re here to talk spicy soups. Kimchee, optional. After you warm up with some barley tea and a few bites of banchan, the stone bowl of soup comes absolutely boiling to your table—plunk that raw egg in that comes with it. Once it stops boiling enough so you can start eating the soup, the silky tofu will soothe your throat, while the spicy broth will start clearing your head. Pro tip: don’t wear anything you really care about—the bright red (and oily) broth tends to splash all over the place.

 

Hunan Wor Wonton Soup from Country Sky

I have only ordered delivery from this place, but I have to do a shout-out for this soup, a godsend when you are home sick and want something spicy and hot and soupy to comfort you. It comes fully loaded with beef, roasted pork, mushrooms, wontons, carrots, bok choy, and shrimp. No MSG, yay. 

 

If you have any favorite spicy soups around town, please add them in the comments. I still have a rotten cold and my spicy soup tour could use a few more stops. Salud!

 

Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of the weekly tablehopper e-column; subscribe and get more food news and gossip at tablehopper.com. Follow her on Twitter: @tablehopper.