The Unorthodox Epicure — (Recipe): Sopa de Fideos (Vermicelli Soup)

Fideo is the Sam Spade of Mexican and Tex-Mex food — its background is a cloudy mystery. We know fideo as the pasta used in sopa de fideos, or vermicelli soup. But where did it come from? And how did it end up here, as a popular soup served first course at Mexican-themed restaurants?

One only needs to go back to 13th century – the heyday of Marco Polo – to know that he brought pasta to Italy from China … Right? Wrong! The Chinese might’ve been making pasta for hundreds (or thousands) of years by then, but so had the Italians. Remember an Italian poet by the name of Horace? Yeah, that Horace. Well, he was writing about lagana (translation: Lasagna – version 1.0) back in the first century B.C. But, let’s get back to fideo.

The word fideo wasn’t concocted in the regions of Latin America or Spain. Nope. It’s Arabic. I’m not saying that our Arab friends invented sopa de fideos, but according to various culinary historians, they deserve all the credit for combining fideos (translation: noodles) with meat.

Fast forward a handful of centuries to the area of south Texas, where an Italian pasta manufacturer came up with an idea to help feed local (south Texas) workers with something cheap and delicious. According to a 2005 report from the Associated Press, a Fort Worth-based (Italian family-owned) pasta company got the ball rolling.

“The idea was to supply the Hispanic migrant workers coming across the border a quick, affordable, easy product that they could actually cook out in the fields,” Carlo Laneri, the fourth-generation owner of O.B. (Our Best) Macaroni told the AP.

From there, the new methods of preparation ran the gamut – beds of fideo pasta topped with meats, soups with fideo pasta and chicken, and of course sopa de fideos, in which the now-famous pasta is served in a tomato broth.

“It’s a Rio Grande Valley food grown to where it’s all over,” Laneri said.

By the way, Laneri’s company sold to a conglomerate in 2009. The company mostly produces for private labels, but fideo pasta is still among its top sellers.

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Some folks add chicken while others add beef. And then there are others who brown the fideo pasta in butter (a la Rice A Roni) before placing it in the tomato broth.  Those are all delicious ideas, but my version of Sopa de Fideos is much like the one you would be served prior to your meal in a Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant.  I add a mild chile pepper to my stock to ensure my guests that they are eating Mexican food.  It’s smooth — I prefer to strain the broth.  And, though I don’t mention it in the recipe, I also like to include a wedge or two of lime to squeeze onto the dish.

Sopa de Fideos

Sopa de Fideos — a classic Tex-Mex/Mexican soup that's cheap, easy and delicious.

Sopa de Fideos — a classic Tex-Mex/Mexican soup that’s cheap, easy and delicious.

1 – Medium Onion, chopped
2 – Large carrots, diced
3 – Celery stalks, chopped
3 – Garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp – Oregano (preferably Mexican Oregano)

2 TB – Vegetable oil

Optional but recommended:
1 bunch – Cilantro
1 – Guajillo or Ancho chile, rinsed and torn 2-3 times

2 qts – Chicken stock
1 – 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
1 – 7 oz pkg Fideo pasta (or vermicelli/angel hair broken into small pieces)

Fresh Cilantro leaves and Queso Fresco, for garnish

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over a medium setting. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, oregano and – if using – the cilantro and dried chile. Cook over medium heat until slightly softened, about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add chicken stock and raise heat to high until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and continue simmering for another 30-40 minutes.

Strain mixture through a fine sieve to remove all solids. Place strained soup broth on stove over medium-high heat; add pasta and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes in most cases. Garnish with fresh cilantro and queso fresco. Season with Kosher salt if desired.

Makes about 2½ quarts of Fideo Soup.

Comments

  1. Oooh Adam, looks delicious! Thank you for the reminder to make this wonderful soup again! I do like your history lesson, too.

  2. My goodness, pasta’s been everywhere. Now that soup looks like just the ticket for the kind of weather we’re having up here. I love having a nice pot of soup for lunches in the winter, maybe a little homemade bread on the side with it. I just have to say it again – that soup looks great Adam and you can bet it’s going to be made here within the next day or two. If you don’t mind though, I keep mis-reading the name of it so I think I’ll just go with Fido soup.
    Did you and you family have a nice Thanksgiving?

    • adamjholland says:

      Hehehe.. Fido soup is fine.. Or, you can call it Fee-day-oh Soup. Thanksgiving was fine here. Just immediate family. Yourself?

      • Oh I kind of like the DAY OOOH soup and I could sing when I make it.
        We went to CT to my sister in laws and everyone played nice…no bloodshed, no one threw any wine.

  3. This looks DEElicious! I’ve never heard of it but have pinned to my Tex-Mex board and plan to try it very soon – it IS soup season!

  4. This looks so good.
    Hope you had a great Christmas Adam and that you and your family have a happy and very successful new year. Keep writing!

Trackbacks

  1. […] of folks in the office compare their fideos (vermicelli) recipes. I’m quite familiar with fideos (soup), as it is a staple of many of the people whom I live among. But little did I know about this […]

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