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Shorbet Lesan El Asfour (Middle Eastern Orzo Soup)

This traditional Egyptian soup is a staple in our homes that we just know you are going to love! It hits the spot during cooler months and is a delicious comforting recipe the whole family will enjoy.

You can make it for your family for dinner, bring it over to a loved one who is sick or needs a pick-me-up, or make a large batch to meal prep for yourself.

When to eat Shorbet Lesan El Asfour

As we begin to observe Ramadan this year, we are excited to gather around the table with our family and eat this scrumptious soup during Iftar. Iftar is the mealtime that occurs after sundown when we break our fast each night. It is a cherished time to spend practicing our faith with our families during the holy month of Ramadan.

Outside of Ramadan, we love to keep Lesan El Asfour in our regular meal rotation, especially during the wintertime! You will find that this Egyptian soup is quite similar to chicken noodle soup. It provides warmth, comfort, and nourishment in every bowl.

We find that it is the perfect soup for when you aren’t feeling well. Our mom made it for us when we had colds as children, and now we do the same for our kiddos!

How did Shorbet Lesan El Asfour get it’s name?

The Arabic term Lesan El Asfour (also sometimes written as Lisan Al-Asfour) directly translates to mean birds tongue. Don’t worry, though, there were no birds harmed in the making of this recipe!

The name of this soup actually comes from the shape of the pasta used in the soup, called orzo. If you look at a single piece of orzo, you will see that it resembles a birds tongue in its shape.

And finally, the word Shorbet translates directly to the word soup! Anytime you see the word Shorbet in front of the name of a recipe, (like our delicious Shorbet Ads) you know that it is a soup.

What is orzo?

At first glance, you may look at orzo and wonder, “is orzo rice or pasta?” And while orzo may look like a grain, it is actually pasta! In fact, Italians would refer to it as a pastina, given the small size of each individual piece of pasta.

Orzo gets its name because of how similarly it resembles barley. So if you thought this was a grain from looking at it, you aren’t the only one! The word orzo directly translates to mean barley in Italian.

It is a versatile pasta that is typically made from a mix of whole wheat flour and semolina flour. However, some pasta-makers will use white flour or whole-grain flour as well. After making the pasta dough, it is then rolled out and punched into its traditional oblong shape.

What is the difference between cardamom pods and ground cardamom?

If you check out the ingredient list, you will see that we call for cardamom to be used in two forms: pods and ground! Cardamom is a delicious spice that originally comes from India and Indonesia. It has an earthy, piney flavor that works well within savory recipes.

The cardamom pods are similar to bay leaves, in that they enhance the flavor of soups and broths when simmered, but you do not want to take a bite into them. A whole pod of cardamom has an intense, somewhat bitter, flavor. When left in a soup while cooking, these intense flavors are softened and help round out the overall flavor of the dish.

Ground cardamom, on the other hand, is more mild. This is because the drying process removes the essential oils that live in the walls of the pods. These essential oils are responsible for the bitter, overpowering flavor of the cardamom pod itself. You can consider the ground cardamom to be the cherry on top in terms of flavoring this soup!

How to make Shorbet Lesan El Asfour

  1. Pour water into a large stock pot. Add the quartered onion, cardamom pods, ground cardamom, bay leaves, mastic, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring the pot up to a boil.
    • Note: you may wrap your aromatics (the bay leaf, cardamom pods and mastic) in mesh to make it easier to remove them later. Think of it as a tea bag for soup!
  2. When the water is boiling, gently add the chicken into the pot, breast side up. Turn the heat down to medium high, and cover the pot. Allow this to cook for about an hour.
    • Note: we recommend using a top that has a hole, or setting the top down slightly off to the side. This will allow the steam to escape from the pot while the soup is cooking.
  3. Remove the chicken and aromatics.
  4. Separately, toast the orzo pasta in a pan on the stovetop over low heat. This should only take a couple minutes.
  5. Once the chicken is done cooking, carefully remove and transfer onto a plate. With a fine mesh strainer, remove the aromatics.
  6. As the orzo cooks, you can either shred the chicken to put back into the soup or prepare it to be served on the side.
  7. Serve with a fresh squeeze of lime juice, and/or with fresh herbs! We personally love the way the lime and parsley compliments the flavors in this recipe.

How to store Shorbet Lesan El Asfour

Like most of our recipes, you can store this in the fridge for 3-5 days in an airtight container, or in the freezer for up to 3 months, But, you may find that after a few days soaking in the broth, the pasta may start to get mushy. Because of this, we recommend eating it within a day of making it, even though it will technically last longer than that.

If you love to meal prep, we recommend freezing the broth and chicken together in portion sizes and leave the orzo out. Then cook the orzo when you are ready to eat a bowl of soup. Since the pasta can cook within the broth, all you need to do is heat it all up together in a small sauce pot on the stove!

Orzo recipes you are going to love

If you fall in love with this recipe, we have great news for you! We have loads of similar recipes that you are going to want to add to your meal planning:

  • Our Egyptian Orzo Pasta, which is the non-soup version of Lesan El Asfour, is to die for! Instead of chicken, we use ground beef for this recipe. It is hearty, herbaceous, and comforting!
  • If you are looking for something easy and hands off that delivers on flavor, then look no further than our One Pot Mediterranean Orzo Pasta. It is packed with yummy, wholesome ingredients and takes under 20 minutes to prepare!
  • And last, but certainly not least, our Creamy Parmesan Orzo Pasta is the most indulgent orzo recipe! Between the cream cheese, parmesan, and garlic – this pasta will leave you in a food coma. But don’t worry, we sneak in handfuls of spinach to add some balance to this dish.

Shorbet Lesan El Asfour (Middle Eastern Orzo Soup)

This traditional Egyptian soup is ultra-comforting! A rich chicken broth flavored with cardamom, bay leaf, and onions. This soup is a must try!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 21 mins
Total Time 21 mins
Course dinner, iftar, lunch, ramadan
Servings 12
Calories
Ingredients
  
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken (cleaned and gizzards removed)
  • 3-4 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt (if you don't add enough salt the broth will taste flavorless. You can always add half the amount, and adjust if needed.)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 small pieces of mastic
  • 6-8 cups water (or enough water to cover the chicken)
  • 8 oz toasted orzo pasta
Instructions
 
  • Pour water into a large stock pot. Add the quartered onion, cardamom pods, ground cardamom, bay leaves, mastic, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring the pot up to a boil.
  • Note: you may wrap your aromatics (the bay leaf, cardamom pods and mastic) in mesh to make it easier to remove them later. Think of it as a tea bag for soup!
  • When the water is boiling, gently add the chicken into the pot, breast side up. Turn the heat down to medium high, and cover the pot. Allow this to cook for about an hour.
  • Note: we recommend using a top that has a hole, or setting the top down slightly off to the side. This will allow the steam to escape from the pot while the soup is cooking.
  • Remove the chicken and aromatics.
  • Separately, toast the orzo pasta in a pan on the stovetop over low heat. This should only take a couple minutes.
  • Once the chicken is done cooking, carefully remove and transfer onto a plate. With a fine mesh strainer, remove the aromatics.
  • While the water is still simmering, add the toasted orzo to the pot. Cook the orzo on low for 8 minutes, or until the pasta reaches al dente.
  • As the orzo cooks, you can either shred the chicken to put back into the soup or prepare it to be served on the side.
  • Serve with a fresh squeeze of lime juice, and/or with fresh herbs! We personally love the way the lime and parsley compliments the flavors in this recipe.
Keyword egyptian orzo soup, egyptian soup, middle eastern orzo soup, orzo soup, shorbet lesan al as four, soup
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