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Chowders Galore

Oct 10, 2013 12:08AM ● By Erin Frisch

What exactly is chowder? Although the origin of the term “chowder” is a bit ambiguous, most people would agree that chowder is basically any sort of thickened and enriched soup, typically with a base of milk or cream. These days, however, chowders tend to be based on a blend of the two. Below is a closer look at chowders and their ingredients.

What types of chowders are there? There are many kinds of chowder in addition to the traditional New England clam chowder and Manhattan clam chowder. Read on for an introduction to chowders galore, ranging from the common to the lesser known.

• New England Clam Chowder: This chowder is heavily based on either milk or cream. Traditionally, the chowder consists of clams, a type of cracker that was popular among New England sailors, bacon, potatoes, and onions. Many New Englanders are explicit about what can and cannot go into this clam chowder—tomatoes being one of the ingredients that would ruin its integrity!

• Manhattan Clam Chowder: Unlike the chowder of New England, Manhattan-style clam chowder is made from a clear broth and uses tomatoes, lots of tomatoes. Tomatoes are actually the most prominent ingredient. The amount of tomato desired for this chowder is largely due to the Italians that immigrated to the New York area in the mid 1800s.

• Rhode Island Clam Chowder: This chowder is made from a clear broth as well. The main difference between this one and that of New England is the component of clear broth, as it otherwise contains the same basic ingredients, such as clam, potatoes, bacon, etc. Some restaurants serve this chowder with a tomato-based broth, though this is not the same as Manhattan clam chowder, as other vegetables are not used.

• Southern Illinois Chowder: This thick chowder is drastically different from the New England and Manhattan-style chowders. However, like the Rhode Island chowder, it is based on a clear broth and typically consists of beef, cabbage, green beans, chicken, tomatoes, and lima beans.

• Minorcan Clam Chowder: This is essentially Florida’s take on Manhattan clam chowder. It consists of the same ingredients, such as chunks of tomato, but datil peppers are added for an intense spiciness. In the second half of the 18th century, Minorcans ventured to Florida as indentured servants. However, because they were treated as slaves, they decided to seek refuge in St. Augustine, bringing along their native recipes, which included this chowder.

• Northwest Salmon Chowder: A hearty chowder, Northwest salmon chowder is considered to be a comfort food in the Pacific Northwest. This chowder is based on chicken stock and usually consists of salmon, celery, onions, potatoes, herbs, and spices.

• Hatteras Clam Chowder: Although this chowder is found only in certain parts of North Carolina, it is quite popular. It combines aspects of both the Rhode Island and New England clam chowders; it consists of a clear broth, bacon, onions, and potatoes. However, flour is added in order to thicken the chowder. In addition, this chowder tends to be heavily seasoned with black and white pepper.

• Southwestern Corn Chowder: This creamy, usually vegetarian chowder is thick and spicy and consists of corn, poblano peppers, and potatoes. At certain locations, it is served as an alternative to New England clam chowder because of its vegetarian quality.

Now that you are mildly well-versed in all things chowder, you might care to branch out and explore recipes for those you’ve never tried. Have you come across any other kinds?

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