Bird tongue soup (cheat’s version) – Egypt

Bird tongue soup. How can you not love a soup with such a poetic name? I was introduced to this delicate and comforting treat in Cairo, and it was infatuation at first taste. It has become a trusted staple on my dinner repertoire, especially during the cold winter months of June, July and August. Called Shurbat Lisan Asfour in Arabic, it is a classic Ramadan treat served across North Africa and the Middle East.

It is a nourishing chicken broth with orzo pasta, the look of which has given the soup its name. According to Shada and Annina, who generously cooked the soup for me in Cairo, you start by boiling a chicken in water with stock vegetables. When cooked, you take the chicken out and roast it whole to give it a golden surface before you serve it, while you make Bird Tongue soup of the stock for a starter. The soup is crowned with a spray of freshly ground black pepper just before serving.


It can’t really get a lot simpler than that. I have to admit still that I often cheat and buy ready-made organic chicken stock, and then it really becomes super quick and easy. Sometimes I add a couple of thin slices of fresh green chilies about half way through the cooking time for an extra little sting. You still want the freshly ground pepper at the end though, that’s what really makes the soup very special.

Bird Tongue Soup – Cheat’s Version, serves 2

  • 600 ml of good quality chicken stock
  • 3 dl of orzo pasta (or similar, in my local shop there’s a version called Rosemary pasta)
  • 3-5 slices of fresh green chilies
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring the chicken stock to boil and add the pasta. Turn the heat down and cook gently until pasta is soft.

For an extra bite, add fresh green chili about halfway through the cooking time (after about 5-7 minutes).

Finish with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. 

Ramadan Kareem!



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