It’s cold. You need soup. Not from a can. Not as an excuse to cast-off New Year’s Eve party leftovers. Soup that’s handmade, hearty, robust. And not just warm. No, no. Face-of-the-sun temperatures to fill your stomach, warm your bones, get the blood going, start 2019 off right.
Peppercorns Kitchen has been a fixture for a few years in Wabash Landing, a restaurant I often passed on pick-up runs to Panera but hadn’t visited until a new-to-town colleague asked what’s good for Chinese. Don’t be thrown by an up-front bar that looks like it’s rarely, if ever, been tended. You’re there to eat, for which there are plenty of large-plate options in the Szechuan style — a flavorful and frequently spicy Chinese cuisine, although there are less-heated choices.
But do make room for that soup. In many cultures, soup represents a wish for the coming year to improve on the last. What better time to eat something so tasty than when A) when temperatures arrive with a minus sign and B) when 12 months of new beginnings await you?
It’s been a long winter. How long? I first had Peppercorns’ hot and sour soup on November 9. OK, that’s not winter. But let your body fight the shivers to laugh at your technicality on the first day in months below 20 degrees. It was a necessity. I sprang for a bowl rather than a cup. By “bowl,” they meant “tureen,” as seen below. I ate a third of it then and there. Upside to the sub-freeze: It kept in the car while I went to a movie afterward — warm, full, rejuvenated.
I’ve yet to ask how Peppercorns prepares its broth (some places use pork), but it has the perfect mix of mushrooms, red peppers, vinegar, red peppers, spices and egg ribbons that don’t just break on your spoon. There’s a reason these ingredients are cultural signifiers of longevity, unity and strength. You’ll feel like you can take on the world or, at the very least, that stiff wind. And it’s not served as an appetizer, per se. Peppercorns serves it as a side to your main meal.
There are a lot of group-meal options (such as hot pots) I’ve yet to try, as I’ve flown solo on both visits. But the Stir-Fried Chicken with Szechuan Pickle and Mushroom Pork, respectively, were good choices, each with the crunch and texture of fresh ingredients and skillful sautéing. Props, too, for Crab Rangoon that looked like a super-sized samosa with oh-so-light breading. (Again, this is not the sort of sauce-it-and-salt-it Chinese restaurant. The prices are a bit higher than you might expect, but the portions, and quality, tell the story.)
But again … the soup. I just ate some. I’d happily eat it again tonight. Here’s to soup and a great 2019 for us all!
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.