North African · Soup

Soup Adventures, Part 1 – Algerian Shurba Bayda (White Soup)

During Ramadan, we eat soup daily in our household. In Libya and a few other countries, only one type of soup is eaten throughout Ramadan. Honestly, that sounds tedious and a little bit sad to me. Soup is such an amazing thing: it’s versatile, easy, cozy and heart-warming. I have a rotation of about five soups that my family and I love. But in an effort to broaden my horizons, I decided to find a sixth soup to add my to Ramadan soup rotation this year. I stumbled across a lovely Algerian white soup with chicken on Pinterest called Shurba Bayda (which literally translates to “white soup”) and since I had all the ingredients on hand, I made it that evening (iftar was just after 10pm here in north Germany, so I would start cooking at 8:30pm). The soup had a rich, velvety texture and the lemon countered the richness of the soup. Interestingly, it started as a beige-brown soup and as soon as I added the lemon and egg yolk at the very end of cooking, it became a creamy, white soup! It was absolutely delicious and the flavor profile was unique. I ate three bowls and this soup has become my #4 favorite soup, which is actually a place of honor considering how many soups I love. Btw, here are my top three soups:  #1 Libyan Soup, #2 Mama’s Faux-Hareera, #3 Zucchini, Pepper & Roasted Tomato Soup…I’ll share these in future posts, inshallah.

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I only made a few minor tweaks to the recipe I found over at Halal Homecooking because it’s pretty perfect already. Btw, I have learned that the best way to make a new recipe a success is to adapt the ingredients to your personal tastes. The flavors I enjoy might be different from the flavors enjoyed by the recipe’s author. Therefore, I always give the recipe a pre-read and decide if I can add anything to improve it for my own personal preferences. If you think about it, this isn’t really an arrogant statement. Most of us who are online searching for new recipes usually like experimenting with new flavors, understand how to develop flavors and have a good working knowledge of our spice cabinets. And sometimes, you don’t have one of the ingredients on hand and cannot be bothered to make a run to the grocery store…instead, you might be able to adjust the recipe to compensate for the missing ingredient. For this soup, my first recipe tweak was to compensate for my own laziness. The soup will probably have more flavor if you use bone-in chicken, which will have to be shredded once cooked. However in Ramadan, I am usually exhausted by 8:30pm and still have another 95 minutes of fasting left. The thought of having to shred chicken was too much for me, so I decided to use boneless chicken. And to compensate for the lack of bones that usually improve the flavor of the broth, I added a cube of Maggi chicken boullion. (Full disclosure: I plan to keep making it the lazy way since the soup was still so good.) Another thing that I noticed was that the base of this soup is identical to chicken soup and since any good chicken broth or soup has a bay leaf, I decided to treat it the same way and add one. The bay leaf ended up giving the soup another subtle flavor that complimented it so well. For the herbs in this recipe, the recipe stated that one can use either cilantro or parsley. I opted for cilantro because I think it adds a flavor dimension that parsley just cannot achieve.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 lb chicken pieces, on the bone (or boneless chicken + 1 boullion cube)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper (or ¼ black pepper + ¼ cayenne pepper)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pre-soaked chickpeas
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vermicilli noodles or orzo pasta

In a medium pot, warm the oil and butter. Brown all sides of the chicken, which should take between 2-3 minutes for boneless chicken and 5-10 minutes for pieces of bone-in chicken. Remove the chicken and set it aside for now. Add a little more oil to the pot if needed, then sautee your chopped onions with the diced celery and carrots until they are softened.

Add the minced garlic, spices and salt to the pot and add back the cooked chicken. Sautee them for 1-2 minutes, then add the water. Once the soup starts to boil, cover it with a lid and reduce the heat. Allow the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes (you can do less time if you are using cubed, boneless chicken since it cooks much faster). Add the chickpeas and vermicelli to the pot, then allow the soup to simmer for 10 minutes. While it is simmering, mix the egg and lemon together. Take a ladle of the soup and slowly mix it into the egg-lemon mixture. This will allow you to temper the egg without cooking it prematurely. Slowly pour this mixture into the soup while stirring. Add the chopped cilantro to the soup, turn off the stove, cover the pot and allow it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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Algerian Shurba Bayda

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

An Algerian take on chicken soup with a lovely richness and lemony taste. What makes it different is the addition of cinnamon, chickpeas, cilantro, fresh lemon and an egg yolk.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 lb chicken pieces, on the bone (or boneless chicken + 1 boullion cube)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper (or ¼ black pepper + ¼ cayenne pepper)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pre-soaked chickpeas
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vermicilli noodles or orzo pasta

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Brown the chicken, which should take several minutes. Remove the browned chicken from the pot and set aside.
  2. Using the same pot, add a little additional olive oil if needed. Then add the onions, carrots and celery. Sautee over a low-medium heat until the onions have softened. At this point, add the garlic, cinnamon, bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot (and the boullion cube, if using). Next, return the chicken to the pot and sautee for 1-2 minutes. Add the water and chickpeas to the pot. Then bring the soup to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes if using bone-in chicken or 20 minutes if using boneless chicken.
  3. Add the vermicilli (or orzo pasta) and allow it cook for 10 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, mix together the egg yolk and lemon juice in a small bowl using a fork or a small whisk. Then, slowly stir in a ladle of the soup into the egg/lemon mixture. Now, slowly stir this mixture into the soup. Remove the pot from the heat, add the chopped cilantro and leave the soup covered for 5 minutes before serving with some crusty bread.

2 thoughts on “Soup Adventures, Part 1 – Algerian Shurba Bayda (White Soup)

  1. This soup came out great. I shredded my chicken since I prefer that. I left out the celery and chick peas and it was still wonderful. Simple and delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

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