Mesocosm Soups

Of all the foods that I love to cook and even more, adore to eat, are members of the genre I call “Mesocosm Soups” I am always in the mood for one of these huge bowls of rich broth, noodles, bits of different kinds of meats, seafood, vegetables, preferably based on spice pastes of chillies, ginger, garlic, spices, south-east Asian flavours … deeply satisfying, filling, rich, exciting, fascinating, comforting. 

Such soups are found throughout S-E Asia and Vietnam – Laksas, Kway Teow Naam Tom Yum aka Thai Combination Noodle Soup, Phos, Bun Rieu, Bun Mam … the list goes on and the sheer delight and divinity is only restricted by one’s imagination.

Before I get onto a couple of recipes, I should explain the name.  Mesocosm Soup? Huh?  Well, the term was coined way back when I was working in a marine biology lab.  The study of habitats and the effects of pollution, over-use by humans, introduction of non-native species on the marine environment was carried out in three sites; the “Macrocosm” eg the reef and marine park near the lab; the “Microcosm”, in the lab in small tanks, test tubes, etc; and the ”Mesocosms”, specially constructed concrete tanks about 10 metres deep and 10 metres in diameter, where the marine habitat could be replicated (“building” a mini-reef, complete with plants and sea-life*) and tests as to the effects of oil spills, increased levels of toxicology etc, could be enacted without damaging the real marine environment. 

*although I did once spot a couple of members of species Ansellaria condominii whisking about for all the world like little cephalopods or jellyfish …

My reputation at work of culinary goddess was made by bringing in a homemade birthday cake for my boss – my famous “0.02% Black Forest Trifle” – will post recipe sometime.  One day I brought in a big bowl of noodly soup for my lunch, and the guys were fascinated. Broth, noodles, tiny meatballs, seafood, Chinese greens, bits of chillies and ginger and garlic … which one of the biologists compared to the Mesocosms, a complete habitat in a mid-sized container (fortunately without used rubber-goods).  I was enchanted by the moniker and the concept – a whole world in a bowl – and the name stuck.  Since then they have been Mesocosm Soups and that is that.

My most recent Mesocosm Soup was a Laksa Lemak, a Singaporean/Nonya classic comprised of a very spicy, rich coconut milk-broth soup, rice noodles, seafood (I used fish and prawns on this occasion), a few bits of char siew, 5 cm pieces of kangkong, finely sliced spring onion, cucumber sticks, and bean sprouts.

Please find below the recipe; other Mesocosm Soup recipes eg, for Bun Rieu, Pho Bo, Pho Ga, Kway Teow Naam Tom Yum et al will be posted in time and found within the Recipes category. 


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  • By Soups « OTTERKAT on Sunday 17 September 2006 at 6:09 pm

    […] As may be apparent from many previous food-related posts, I LOVE soup, cream soups, vegetable soups, fancy soups, simple soups – see my post and associated recipes on Mesocosm Soups for soups-as-a-meal.  […]

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