Sweetcorn Soup


Don’t look too closely at this photo. No, really! A close inspection of this soup might not be so pleasant on the eyes, nor the tummy …

Having had a rather intense week at work, I have been resorting to Bill’s Everyday Asian when I haven’t been reaching for the telephone to order (another) pizza home-delivery. One particular evening, I felt that making this Sweetcorn Soup from scratch, using fresh corn, would be a welcome distraction from the stressful events which had been taking place in the office.

As I proceeded to slice into the corn cobs, I suddenly had kernels splattering all over the kitchen counter and floor, landing everywhere but on the chopping board itself. And then I remembered a tip from a magazine where a reader had suggested placing the corn cob in the centre of a bundt tin, which would hold the cob in place whilst you proceeded to slice off the kernels and which would fall into the bundt tin itself. So I proceeded as suggested and had some limited success in capturing half of the kernels, but then had difficulties with the cob getting stuck in the centre of the tin. Half an hour and six corn cobs later, and faced with a yellow-studded kitchen counter that was hardly calm-inducing, I conceded that it may have been easier to simply open a few tins of corn. And although the first part of the recipe succeeded in keeping my mind off work while I made a mess of the kitchen, next time, I should probably choose a recipe which involves more satisfying and tension-reducing prep work, maybe something involving a meat cleaver.

The soup itself is rather easy to make. If you are wanting to recreate the sweetcorn soup that is often served in Chinese restaurants, the flavours are all there in Bill’s recipe. However, the texture is not quite the same. The proper Chinese versions usually have more broth to corn ratio, and the soup is often thickened with cornflour to give that smooth and silky texture. Bill’s recipe is perhaps more of a Western-style chunky corn soup with ginger, soy sauce and mirin added for an Asian touch.

His recipe specifies blending half of the soup, and it is either this step or adding the beaten egg (or both), that turns this fresh and wholesome-looking corn soup into something which you are probably unlikely to be able to serve to your kids (unless you perhaps blindfold them). And I’m glad that I’m not the only one to have made this observation. This particular soup was also reviewed at the fun blog, A Cookbook A Month.

Although the soup tastes great, it’s hard to deny that we also eat with our eyes. Moreover, due to the high concentration of corn in this soup, it is rather filling so you would probably only want a small bowl of this soup.

Overall, I’m happy to have tried this recipe but it didn’t quite hit the spot for me. Rather disappointing because fresh corn comes at a hefty price in Zurich. Bill points out that you would be forgiven for using frozen or tinned corn, which is worth knowing if you need to get dinner on the table fast.

{Please click on the image twice to view the recipe in full size}

1 tablespoon olive oil
5 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced and separated into white and green parts
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons ginger, finely grated
600 g fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4-6 cobs of corn)
1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock
500 ml (2 cups) boiling water
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons mirin
coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
freshly ground white pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and gently fry the white part of the spring onions, garlic and ginger for a few minutes. Add the corn kernels, chicken stock and water and bring to the boil. Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes until the corn is tender.

Remove half of the soup to a blender and blend, or into a large bowl to purée with a stick blender. Return the puréed soup to the pan. Slowly pour in the beaten eggs in a thin stream, stirring the soup constantly as you do. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin. Taste for seasoning and maybe add some freshly ground white pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of fresh coriander (cilantro) and the green spring onions (scallions).

Recipe adapted from Bill Granger’s, Bill’s Everyday Asian


  1. At Anna's Kitchen Table 2 November 2011

    Ha, you made me smile, picturing you wrestling with the corn!
    Oh well, at least you gave it a good go! :-))

    • eat, little bird 2 November 2011

      Indeed but I’m not sure I’d be up for it again the future! It was pretty hard (and messy) work!

  2. Sam-I-Am 3 November 2011

    Hi Crème!

    Wow! What and adventure and still you managed to produce a stunning photo! I LOVE Chinese restaurant Sweet corn soup and order it all the time, so when I saw your title and beautiful pic, I was all gong-ho and ready to go! Needless to say that my enthusiasm waned by the end of your honest review (thank you for that!). Still, I must tell you that I make a version of this soup, very close to the Chinese restaurant style, via a very good Marlene Matar recipe that I e-mailed Etoile ions ago and that she too uses and loves. It is made with chicken and as you say thickened with corn flour (actually custard powder as the Chinese like the yellow tint that gives their food) and so on….would you like me to e-mail it to you? Mercifully Marlene uses canned sweet corn 😉 THX again for a beautiful, informative an visually stunning post!

    • eat, little bird 4 November 2011

      Hi Sam! Ooh I never turn down recipe offers, especially ones recommended by you! I would love to have a copy of this recipe, especially since I love Chinese sweetcorn soup and would love to make it at home. I’m intrigued that a soup might have custard powder as an ingredient! Many thanks, Sam! 🙂

  3. Caroline 3 November 2011

    Oh Thanh, you had me chuckling. I loved the honesty and pace of your writing and your really did capture your mood very well as yellow beads were pinging across your kitchen!

    I love this soup, but have not had it in years and years! I would probably go the frozen or canned corn route, but as you say the taste is good at least it was worth it.

    Lovely picture though, for all your cautions! Its a very warming, happiness inducing colour.

    • Caroline 3 November 2011

      Oh and absolutely ADORE your spice grinder!

      • eat, little bird 4 November 2011

        Thanks, Carrie! Well the soup didn’t taste bad, it just looked, er, gross 😉 Glad I managed to sort of hide that fact! The grinder is something my mum brought back from Vietnam many years ago and which we used at home as a pepper grinder. I loved it so much that, when I moved out of home, I just had to take it with me 🙂

  4. Maureen Stapleton 3 November 2011

    I’m really glad that someone agrees with me about what this soup looks like. Delicious, but you have to close your eyes when you eat it. Kirstin– one of the other writers on our blog– says that all soups look that way, but I’m not sure I agree. This one was particularly gross.

    As far as wrangling the corn goes, I’d recommend just using frozen if you don’t want to go through the hassle of getting it off the cobs. I don’t think it makes any difference to the taste, and it saves you all the time and hassle of using fresh.

    Thanks again for reading our blog. Yours is great.

    • eat, little bird 4 November 2011

      Hi Maureen! Thanks for popping by my blog 🙂 I’m a big fan of soups and most of them look pretty appetising to me. But this particular corn soup – well, you described it best – looked like a bowl of sick! I think that’s why there is no close-up photo of this soup in Bill’s book, and probably also why there was a lot of green garnish on top. If I had to make this again, I would probably skip the blending part. I think I would also used tinned corn – I have yet to find frozen corn in the supermarkets in Zurich, though I’m sure they must exist …

  5. Julia Levy 4 November 2011

    LOL the soup doesn’t look that bad!!! I heard it’s easiest cut corn off the cob in a deep bowl the walls of which stop the bits pinging and a-flying all over!

    Sorry tho that the soup doesn’t hit the spot. I do love the sweetcorn soup you can get in chinese restaurants, that slightly glutinous thick texture that’s both tasty and comforting. A lovely piece as always, even if the eating wasn’t quite as successful.

    • eat, little bird 4 November 2011

      Coriander can hide a lot!! 😉 I agree that the sweetcorn soups from Chinese restaurants can be really comforting but have never thought to make it at home. I hope to get my hands on a good recipe soon 🙂 The weather is really cooling down now and I look forward to having large mugs of soup for dinner.

      As you’ve realised by now, I think it’s only fair that I also report on the recipes which have not turned out so well. Not everything works out in my kitchen and I like to share that here 🙂

  6. Vy 6 November 2011

    It looks very good Thanh! I remember my mom having one of those pepper grinders in the picture!

    • eat, little bird 6 November 2011

      Thanks, Vy! Ah these pepper grinders are a staple in most Vietnamese kitchens, I’m sure!

  7. Ilana 14 November 2011

    Okay, I admit it, I missed lunch and am now secretly checking your blog at work to figure out dinner tonight! 😉

  8. Tina 31 December 2011

    I made this soup tonight, and loved it! In order to make it weekday friendly, I used 2 cans of corn instead of off the cob. Turned out just fine, but next time I will use 1 can regular corn and 1 creamed corn. I followed the rest of the recipe as written. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • eat, little bird 1 January 2012

      I’m so glad that you tried this recipe and that it worked out well with canned corn. I hadn’t thought of using creamed corn and think it would work great here! Thank you so much for letting me know how this recipe worked out for you 🙂

  9. Krisie 1 October 2013

    Thx so much 4 the recipe!
    I added a little milk in mine n it came out pretty smooth…
    But i put a lil too much soya so it ended up becoming darker n looked pretty hideous by the tym i wuz done, but it wuz totally delicious! 😀
    Btw, ur pepper grinder looks really cool
    I used a pestle but i’m gonna go look 4 a grinder now!


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