When finding recipes to test and adapt for here on Arousing Appetites, we look not only for great taste but also for an intriguing history.
And while the story for sopa de caracol may not trace as far back as earlier millenia (like ropa vieja or latkes, for example), it’s certainly not every day that a dish can inspire a hit pop song from the 1990s.
Sopa de Caracol: Watanegui Consup
First, a little about the song. Sopa de Caracol was originally written in English by a Belizean artist as “Conch Soup.” The song was supposedly intended to be a pseudo-promotion of the Garifuna culture and its punta music style, but that was before Banda Blanca got their hands on it.
Banda Blanca, a Honduran band, took the song and translated it into Spanish, and since it was a song about sopa de caracol – one of Honduras’s national dishes – the song and the band’s career took off from there.
One of the main lyrics in the chorus – Watenegui consup, Yupi pa ti, Yupi pa mi – literally translates in English to “what a good soup, here’s some for you, here’s some for me.”
For the recipe itself, the real star of sopa de caracol, however, is the conch.
Certainly one of the more interesting ingredients that we’ve had the privilege of cooking recently, conch (or the caracol in sopa de caracol) is the general name for sea snails living in a long, spiraled shell. Around the Caribbean especially, conch is a very featured ingredient in the cuisines of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Honduras, Belize, and many more.
One of the reasons it’s so ubiquitous is because it is supremely healthy to eat. Conch is a fantastic source of protein (containing all essential amino acids), iron, magnesium, selenium, vitamin B12, vitamin E, and folate. That it’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac as well is certainly an added bonus, too.
Basically, conch is a fantastic, lean meat to eat in order to efficiently get your daily dose of needed nutrients.
About the Recipe
Sopa de caracol mixes the affinity for coconuts from Garifuna cuisine with the readily abundant produce and seafood common around the Caribbean.
Any given sopa de caracol will contain these primary ingredients: coconut milk, yuca (also known as cassava), conch and green bananas. From there, additional ingredients like garlic, onion, carrots, cilantro, and spices like black pepper help to augment this soup’s already rich and wholesome taste.
Making sopa de caracol itself is fairly simple. Recipes will time the adding of certain ingredients differently from one another, but the guiding principle here is to cook conch and vegetables together in a broth made from a coconut milk base.
Before cooking the conch, however, it’s a really, really good idea to tenderize it as much as you possibly can. If it isn’t tenderized prior to cooking, the meat can harden and become almost rubbery as it cooks, which doesn’t yield as delicious as taste as conch can be. Trust us on this one, we learned this the hard way…
In some recipes – including our original reference recipe – shredded coconut is also added to the soup to give a granular, fibrous but heavily coconutty taste to the soup. When opting for a recipe with this shredded coconut, you will want to first grind down the coconut shreds into as small a piece as possible before mixing it with a portion of the coconut milk and water allotted for the recipe. As it’s added to the broth and simmers with the remaining ingredients, the fibers will break down, and it adds further richness to your sopa de caracol.
Our Take on the Recipe
In our first test of the original recipe, we noticed that there was far too little liquid included in the soup, so that is where the bulk of our adaptations and changes were made. We doubled the amount of coconut milk used and added a fair amount of water to the recipe, which of course increased the total yield of sopa de caracol and serving amount. The second half of the coconut milk was added, however, only after the first half and the fibers from the shredded coconut had cooked and broken down for a little bit.
Another tweak we particularly liked was to slightly pre-cook the vegetables, especially the yuca, prior to adding the coconut milk broth. One thing we learned as we experimented with the Belizean hudut recipe is that coconut milk will rapidly thicken and darken in color if it has been on heat for long enough, which is an end-effect we were looking to delay as long as possible.
For spicing our sopa de caracol, we opted to use a spice mixture of cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and black pepper inspired by another Honduran black bean chili recipe.
And finally, more as a slight tweak in favor of better nutrition. We swapped margarine out for grass-fed butter instead. This was a personal choice for us since we don’t make very much use of margarine at all. Grass-fed butter, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.
What you’ll find is a delicious, nutritious and certainly filling soup. One small bowl of sopa de caracol can serve as a sinfully good full meal, especially since you’ll get most of your daily nutrition in the process.
Watanegui consup. Yupi pa ti, yupi pa mi!
How do you prepare your sopa de caracol? Comment below!
- 1 pound of conch (or clam can be used as a substitute), cut into small pieces and tenderized
- 2 shredded coconuts, or 200 grams pre-shredded
- 2 cans, or 3 cups cups, of coconut milk
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 1 pound of yucca, peeled and cubed
- 2 carrots, peeled and cubed
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 green bell peppers, cubed
- 2 green bananas or plantains, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup of coriander, roughly chopped
- 1 tbs cumin
- 1 tbs coriander
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon powder
- 1 tbsp grass-fed butter
- 2.5 cups of water
- Before cutting the conch into small pieces, use a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin to tenderize and soften the meat. From there, cut into small pieces and rinse under running water to clean thoroughly
- In a blender or food processor, combine shredded coconut, 1 can of coconut milk, and 1 cup of water. Pulse and blend the shreds into smaller pieces, creating a thick meal of coconut
- Bring a large stockpot over high heat and add coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, add the butter, onions, garlic, yucca, carrots, and bell peppers. Saute for 4-5 minutes on high heat together
- After 4-5 minutes, add the cumin, coriander, pepper, and cinnamon to the vegetables. Once well-mixed, add the coconut meal mixture from Stage 1. Stir well and let simmer for 2-3 minutes
- Add the remaining water and coconut milk to the pot and bring stockpot to a low simmer. Let sit and simmer for ~15 minutes, stirring occasionally
- At the 5 minute mark of this simmer, add the cubed green bananas. Let bananas cook and simmer for the remaining 10 minutes with the soup
- Add the conch to the soup and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes as the conch flavor cooks into the soup
- Take off the heat and serve