Food as Medicine: Krautsuppe

Sauerkraut soup with shrimp or fish
Sauerkraut soup with shrimp or fish

After all the heavy foods from Thanksgiving, our taste buds really craved a kick — something completely different and new. It’s been very drizzly and damp outside and we both still have a cough from that flu we had last week, too, so something soupy seemed in order, as well. A recipe from Lavaterra in Germany really caught my eye earlier this month, and it seemed like the perfect time to try it: Krautsuppe mit Krabben, sauerkraut soup with shrimp! The recipe blends sauerkraut with ginger, orange marmalade, dill and seafood — the unusual combination demanded to be sampled! When we lived in Germany, T once had a seafood choucroute in a restaurant near the French border and he loved the combination of sauerkraut and fish so I didn’t think it would be a hard sell for him! ; )

We didn’t have any shrimp, so I pan-fried a pink snapper filet to use instead. Also, when I was finished mincing the fresh ginger, I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the amount called for in the original recipe, and only used about 2/3 in the soup and the other 1/3 to season the fish when pan-frying it. Even with the lesser amount, the ginger flavor came through beautifully. We loved this soup — you don’t taste “sauerkraut,” but a lightly sweet and tart, yet creamy, flavor. It’s quite remarkable how the disparate flavors come together. It reminded me of Chinese “hot and sour soup” — same balance of piquant and spicy. I know we will make this soup again. It is quick to prepare, tasty, healthy and a full meal with a slice of bread. If the idea of seafood and sauerkraut seems too strange to you, I think a nice sausage or even chicken will compliment these flavors well.

This recipe is categorized as “Food as Medicine” because the healthy dose of ginger makes this a very warming soup — what would be considered “yang” or warm energy in traditional Chinese medicine. And the tomato and orange rinds in the marmalade will contribute lycopene and Vitamin C, respectively. But did you know that sauerkraut is also very high in Vitamin C (much more than orange juice), some Vitamin Bs, and the lactobacilli bacteria that promotes good digestion? So besides being delicious, this soup just might cure what ails you! Guten Appetit!

Lavaterra’s original recipe in German is here. Below is an English translation (suggestions for substitions that are not in the original German recipe are marked ** ).

(for 2 persons)

300g (10.5oz or 1-2/3 cup) sauerkraut (don’t rinse)
40g (1 knob or 3 heaping TBL.) fresh ginger
**500ml (2 cups) tomato juice
**1 tsp. chicken broth bouillon paste, such as “Better Than Bouillon”
2 TBL. orange marmalade
1 pinch of nutmeg

4 TBL. sour cream **(or strained plain yogurt)
salt and pepper
4-5 fresh dill branches, about 1 tsp. dried

100g (1/2 cup) baby shrimp (or one cooked fish filet)

Finely chop sauerkraut. Peel and mince ginger. Cook together with tomato juice, bouillon paste, marmalade and nutmeg for 20 minutes, covered.
** If you don’t have bouillon concentrate or paste, instead of a bouillon cube (which is very high in sodium), use a 1/2 cup of chicken broth and reduce the tomato juice to 1 1-1/2 cups.

Mix together sour cream, salt, pepper and dill. Set aside.

Taste the soup and correct seasoning. Serve with dollop of seasoned cream and garnish with shrimp (or fish or sausage).