The Difference Between Soup, Chowder and Bisque

Posted by Chad Stamm on Feb 1, 2019 12:16:15 PM

In Cuisine, Toasting, food and beverage


It's winter. It's soup season. So let's get all linguistic and go beyond the words. What is soup? How is it different from bisque? And what about chowder?

For starters -- and to briefly summarize here -- soup has its origins in alcohol, literally (along with toasting, actually). Years ago, there used to be a bread-like substance called sop, which was tossed into warm mead or wine. Over time, the word became less associated with the bread and more on the warm broth, which eventually dropped the alcohol and became soup.

Both bisques and chowders are types of soup. They are both thick in nature, they are both originally French, and they both have their origins in seafood. But they are different from one another.

Here's how:

Bisques are smooth, creamy soups that are highly seasoned and classically based on crustaceans like lobster, crab, or crayfish.

The Bay of Biscay is the large body of water located roughly on the west coast of France between the northern coast of Spain. Also, the crustaceans are typically cooked twice, or bis cuites in French, when they are first sautéed and then simmered. Between these two stories and linguistic roots, we get the word origins for bisque.

Chowder, on the other hand, is much chunkier than bisque. We typically associate it with seafood from both New England and Manhattan, which is not that far off from its classical roots. The word chowder is said to come from the French word chaudron, which is a large cauldron in which fishermen originally made their stews.

So toss in a few crackers, and get to work!


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