Soup With a Pulse

Unlike food foam, soup is a doughty champion and survives not only long winters but all food trends. Peasants could not always afford to include meat in their soups, and so pulses were a good substitute to provide that feeling of fullness. Lentil and chickpea soup is high in protein and fibre and you can include a range of additions such as cumin for complexity and depth.

In the heart of the Melbourne Uni precinct lies a cafe with soul. Soul Soup Cafe is a friendly coffee house and bar with an emphasis on organic soup and Fairtrade coffee. Relax in the reading room or the courtyard as you tuck into a well-balanced red lentil soup or robust chorizo and chickpea soup.

Further uptown, the Moroccan Soup Bar does a roaring trade. The restaurant does not take bookings and menus are not available so you need to rely on the waiter to provide you with details. A word of advice in advance: order the 'Chickpea Bake'. This dish resembles a bread soup and is presented as a bowl of grilled pita bread drizzled with olive oil, garlic, chickpeas, yoghurt and a sprinkle of paprika. If you're after something with a bit more heat, head south to the Spirit of India. This relaxed and inexpensive restaurant serves North Indian classics, including a satisfying and healthful shorba yellow lentil soup.

Soul Soup Cafe
55 Cardigan Street, Carlton
Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

The Moroccan Soup Bar
183 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North
(03) 9482 4240
Tue-Sat 6pm-10pm

Spirit of India
401-403 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne
(03) 9682 6696
Daily 5pm-11pm

Rice Is Nice – Nasi Goreng

Rice has been the primary survival food for nearly half the world’s population. It is a versatile grain that can be steamed, fried, boiled and re-boiled. It can be served as a savoury or sweet dish and enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Toss fried rice through soy sauce, shallots, garlic, tamarind and chilli, add an egg and chicken and you’ve got yourself a version of nasi goreng. Considered the national dish of Indonesia, nasi goreng is traditionally eaten for breakfast, but there is now a diverse variety of nasi goreng served for lunch and dinner. It can be found in street stalls or in the finest of restaurants.

Penang Coffee House is a Hawthorn icon and has served traditional Malaysian fare for over 30 years. Don’t let the modest surroundings fool you; Penang Coffee House plates up a spicy rendition of this peasant dish. On the opposite side of the river, is a little slice of Malaysia called Blue Chillies. This little gem specialises in Malaysian hawker cuisine and offers a variety of rice dishes including nasi goreng ayam with tender pieces of succulent chicken. Over on the bayside, Chinta Ria Soul offers a happy buzz and food with big bold flavours. Their version of nasi goreng is wonderfully fragrant with spicy undertones.

Penang Coffee House
549 Burwood Road, Hawthorn
(03) 9819 2092
Tue-Fri, Sun 11.30am-2.30pm, 5pm-9.30pm
Sat 5pm-9.30pm

Blue Chilies
82 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 0071
Mon-Thu 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-10:30pm
Fri-Sat 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-11pm
Sun 6pm-10pm

Chinta Ria Soul
94 Acland Street, St Kilda
(03) 9525 4664
Mon-Sat 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-11pm
Sun 6pm-10.30pm

Cauldron Cassoulet

Cassoulet is an earthy, slow-cooked casserole, steeped in French history and tradition. It is a communal dish, customarily made from various meats such as pork sausages, mutton, goose and white haricot beans. According to legend, the birth of cassoulet was during the siege of Castelnaudary by Edward the Prince of Wales in 1355. All the besieged townspeople gathered their leftover food to create a big stew and cooked it in a bubbling cauldron. The stew quickly caught on and cassoulet was born.

Every Wednesday night, Libertine French Dining Room hosts a ‘cassoulet night’ and plates up traditional Toulouse-style cassoulet with confit pork belly and homemade Toulouse sausage. Enjoy a refined atmosphere as you tuck into this hearty comfort dish. A couple of suburbs away, lies Paris Go, a quintessential Parisian bistro. The restaurant plates up a bold interpretation of cassoulet with white beans and a selection of tender confit meat including duck, lamb, pork and sausage. In true peasant style, expect generous serves. In the heart of the CBD, The French Brasserie serves a similar version with stewed haricot vert (green beans) and various trimmings of meat.

Libertine French Dining Room
500 Victoria Street, North Melbourne
(03) 9329 5228
Tue– Fri 12-3pm, 6pm-10pm
Sat 6pm- 10pm

Paris Go
116 Rathdowne Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 7507
Tue, Sat-Sun 6pm-10pm
Wed-Fri 12pm-2pm, 6pm-10pm

French Brasserie
2 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne
(03) 9662 1632
Mon-Fri 11am-11pm
Sat 6pm-11pm

Chinese Rice Porridge – Congee

Congee is a thick Chinese rice porridge and is traditionally eaten by many Asian cultures for breakfast or supper. The rice is cooked in water or broth until it breaks down to a porridge-like consistency. Congee is versatile and a variety of ingredients can be added including meat, egg, fish, chicken and garnished with sliced green onions and slithers of ginger.

The Supper Inn’s version of this staple is served with a crispy donut known as ‘youtiao’. It is chopped into bite size pieces resembling croutons, so you can soak up all the goodness. In the same vicinity lies Wonton House, which offers a choice of 20 varieties of congee. Be bold and don’t be afraid to try the century egg, jellyfish and chicken congee. If you’re feeling safe, the sliced duck and lettuce congee is a fine choice. A few blocks up, a Shark Finn Inn plates up a variety of congee dishes including pork and chicken congee.

Supper Inn
15 Celestial Avenue, Melbourne
(03) 9663 4759
Daily 5.30pm-2:30am

Wonton House
181 Russell Street, Melbourne
(03) 9662 9882
Mon- Fri 11am-11pm
Sat-Sun 9am till 11pm

Shark Finn Inn
131 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
(03) 9662 2681
Mon-Sat 11.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-1.30am
Sun 11am-3pm, 5.30pm-1.30am