The Architecture of Soup

Flavor-packed soups rich in texture and color that will warm you up—and fill you up.

By Diana Pittet


the architecture of soup—sancocho zuletanoSancocho Zuletaño

"I love sancocho!" enthuses Fernando Polanco, the general director of the luxurious hotel and eco-lodge Hacienda Zuleta in the northern sierra of Ecuador. Of both Ecuadorian and Dominican descent (his grandfather was president of Ecuador), Polanco knows well the many variations of this much-loved heirloom soup, which is eaten throughout Latin America. The hacienda's meatless Ecuadorian version is distinctively light and refreshing, but the chunks of root vegetables cooked in broth make it plenty hearty. For something even more substantial, feel free to add hefty chunks of cooked beef or chicken, as is typical for sancocho.

For the soup:

  • 6 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
  • 3 cobs of corn, cut into 1-inch-wide rounds
  • 1 pound green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 pound yuca, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks


For the refrito:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


For the garnish:

  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges


1. In a 4-quart pot, bring the broth to a boil. Add the corn, green plantains, and carrots, and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

2. In the meantime, make the refrito. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 10 to 12 minutes, until the onions are soft and just starting to turn brown. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the refrito, peas, and yuca to the soup and simmer for another 20 minutes, until the yuca is soft. Taste for seasonings.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls, making sure each person has equal amounts of corn. Garnish with a generous sprinkling of cilantro and a lime wedge