If you're like me, or probably half your friends, you've been struck ill, most likely as penance for avoiding that same illness just a couple of weeks ago. But if it has made an appearance, or even if it hasn't, you will find comfort in the idea of a bowl of soup delivered to your door. But rather than opting for that same old chicken broth with different accoutrement, today we seek out hidden soup treasures conveniently located within delivery distance of my home, the Pico/Westwood area of West L.A.
The first reinforcements come from Flame Persian Restaurant (whose $10 delivery charge for orders under $50 may incline you to pick up) in the form of ash reshteh. Ash is a type of thick, Iranian soup, the most popular of which being ash reshteh (with reshteh essentially meaning thin noodle), seasoned with herbs such as dill and mint, and containing pinto beans and kashk (whey). The bright colors, fried aromatics and kashk enliven a dish which would otherwise be bogged down by its own thickness. It is not exactly the sort of thing most bed-ridden folk would reach for, particularly if their illness was of the intestinal variety, but the strong flavors do come through rather nicely with a stuffed up nose. The noodles meanwhile, nestled comfortably under a blanket of green, are soft to the point that they would work well with a sore throat. The ultimate satisfaction, though, probably comes in making sure the restaurant includes a complimentary piece of their lovely and quite large flat bread.
Wonton soup would have been a simple and thoughtless second option, but after reading reports of a west side Chinese restaurant serving a crab and fish maw soup, it seemed like the necessary thing to order. Fish maw, or swim bladder, is the fish's gaseous organ that allows it to control buoyancy. Thought to aid in a variety of areas, including skin health, blood circulation and of all things, fertility, this color-deprived soup seemed like exactly the sort of thing that might have some deep, soulful healing powers beyond the grasp of western science. The extremely price-and-portion friendly Mandarin Kitchen arrived quickly with the soup, which I dare say is the least visually compelling thing eaten in this food fight series thus far. The broth has a familiar taste and feel, soothing, viscous, vaguely oceanic, but it is the fish maw that will make or break your will. Known to take on the flavors of its surrounding ingredients, it does so admirably, but these soft, limp morsels will not offer textural comfort for those in need of familiarity. Of the two soups, the ash reshteh is certainly the more flavorful and, likely, accessible. But did either of them actually make me feel better? I'm not entirely sure, though it has been a while since my last fertility test.