The Clever Reason Malaysian ABC Soup Got Its Name

Bowl of homemade Malaysian ABC soup
Bowl of homemade Malaysian ABC soup - Alvarez/Getty Images

Not to be confused with American alphabet soup (which has been around longer than you might expect), Malaysian ABC soup is hearty, flavorful, satisfying, and pasta-free. This potato, carrot, and tomato soup gets its name from its simplicity -- whipping up a batch is as easy as "A, B, C." However, in Malaysia, the dominant languages are Malay and Mandarin, neither of which uses the Latin alphabet, so it's unclear exactly how this soup came to borrow the name by this understanding. An alternate (and perhaps more-likely) theory proposes that the soup's name comes from the fact that it's a rich source of vitamins A, B, and C. This warming, gut-healthy comfort food is a nourishing mix of vitamin A from the carrots, vitamin B from the potatoes, and vitamin C from the tomatoes.

Malaysian ABC soup can be made in a double boiler for extra steamy flavor, bringing out the delicate aromatics and natural sugars from the understated root veggies. Or, a knockout batch can also totally be long-simmered in a stock pot or Dutch oven over low heat. Either way, all the ingredients get covered with water, simmered for two hours or longer, and that's it. The gentle stock is made from steeping the ingredients. Just pick out the chicken bones and serve with a drizzle of soy sauce or a pinch of salt -- a simple prep that creates impressively dimensional sweet-savory tangy flavor.

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A Nourishing Mixture Of ABC Vitamins, Veggies, And Protein

Home cook preparing a pot of Malaysian ABC soup
Home cook preparing a pot of Malaysian ABC soup - 500/Getty Images

This simple chicken and vegetable soup is a popular dish in Malaysia, Singapore, and other regions across Southeast Asia. It's an old reliable stronghold meal for remedying illnesses and feeding hungry bellies during times of scarcity. Recipes tend to vary, with each family having their own version, and Malaysian families often teach it to their children when they're learning to cook for the first time.

Bone-in raw whole chicken carcasses are a common fixture in Malaysian markets, making for a flavorful, rich ingredient as the bone marrow diffuses into the soup. To translate this crave-able profile to ingredients that are more widely available in the Western market, U.S. home cooks can make their Malaysian ABC soup using a mix of meaty, bone-in chicken pieces and chicken bones. To make a vegetarian-friendly version, swap the chicken for coconut water.

ABC soup is wildly customizable. Feel free to add in whatever complementary soup-friendly ingredients you happen to have on hand, like white peppercorns, Chinese celery, scallions, cilantro, tofu, broccoli, ginger, or segmented sweetcorn on the cob. Yellow or Russet potatoes are ideal soup potatoes for their medium starchiness, and some folks add extra onion and a whole head of garlic for sharper umami flair.

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