Traditional recipes

Snackshot of the Day: Soup-e-Jo

Snackshot of the Day: Soup-e-Jo

Photos of all things food and drink from The Daily Meal

Soup-e-Jo is a popular Persian dish.

The Daily Meal's editors, contributors, and readers dig into some pretty great restaurants, festivals, and meals. There's not always enough time to give a full review of a restaurant or describe in depth why a place, its food, and the people who prepare it are noteworthy, so Snackshot of the Day does what photographs do best, rely on the image to do most of the talking.

Today's Snackshot is of a bowl of soup-e-jo. Soup-e-Jo is a traditional Persian barley soup. It's a simple soup that just needs barley, chicken, carrots, celery, onion, and various seasonings. You'll find milk in creamier recipes, and it's often seasoned with lemon juice, bay leaves, and cloves. This hearty soup is great for those on a budget.

Read more about The Daily Meal's Snackshot feature. To submit a photo, email jbruce[at], subject: "Snackshots." Follow The Daily Meal's photo editor Jane Bruce on Twitter.

Persian Chicken Barley Soup (Soup e Jo)

Barley. How did we come to this? Just about the only times I encounter the ancient grain, long a staple of the Western diet, are when it’s malted and fermented in beer. And though we’ve been rekindling old fires with farro, spelt, and quinoa, barley seems to be largely left out of this next-wave appreciation, perhaps due to its containing gluten.

But that doesn’t mean we should forego barley, since the benefits of whole grains are much more than simply avoiding gluten. Plus, who doesn’t like the gentle chew of pearl barley in a soup?

So when a co-worker of mine gathered ’round a communal table for lunch with a bowl of distinctly turmeric-tinted soup with small baubles, I lurched over to inspect it. Is that soup e… jo? Something I’ve only read about but never had the pleasure of seeing or trying before. It was. And she was surprised. I continued to drill her on how she makes it, and we compared recipes on blog posts that afternoon. So I had to make it. Taking her cues, it was a most simple, elegantly understated soup of chicken broth with carrots, onions, some tomato paste, often dairy, and most importantly, barley.

Turmeric root, before being grated

It’s really barley that binds the various adaptations of this soup together. It could be classified in the canon of “peasant” soups, and is simpler than some of the most rustic versions of which might come to mind (acquacotta or “cooked water” being one of them).

We had a hard time nailing down the perfect recipe for soup e jo online. According to Tara, my co-worker, it doesn’t typically have actual pieces of chicken meat, and she’s never seen it served that way, unlike most chicken broth-based soups I’ve seen. (I’d love to know why, and my hunch is that it wasn’t traditionally chicken broth, but rather “cooked water” with barley.) Soup e jo is typically creamy, thickened with heavy cream, or in Tara’s case, yogurt, simply because she was lactose-intolerant. I followed suit and felt that yogurt provided ample tang to make the lemon juice or vinegar called for in most recipes unnecessary. We eventually settled on a good example coming from the blog Persian Momma, although tomato paste was not used in it. This was a no-no, at least according to Tara’s own Persian momma.

Yogurt is added for richness at the end

Times like these, I’m comforted to know that most treasured, comfort-food recipes from around the globe don’t fit into any exact formulas. The home-cooked tradition has spurned so many variations that it’s impossible to tell anymore what’s the “right way” to cook a certain dish, no matter how iconic it may be to a cuisine. I would love to see what Louisa Shafia has to say on the matter of soup e jo, and what anyone else who has an opinion on it says as well. And more broadly, I would love to share these dilemmas of trying to define a dish–and a cuisine–too. It’s been a constant question as I wrote The Food of Taiwan, a cookbook on a cuisine that has yet to be fully presented in the West. And on March 31, I’m joining Louisa, fellow author Leah Koenig, and food editor Beth Kracklauer for a panel discussion on “Cooking Your Culture” that will explore these topics as we explored them in writing our cookbooks, at PowerHouse Books.

I’m looking forward to a meaty discussion on that. But in the meantime, enjoying a soothingly unembellished, pared-down expression of barley in a soup as comforting as you can imagine. It’s really that good, I could eat it for lunch every day.

Persian Chicken Barley Soup (Soup e Jo)
(makes 4-6 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 medium-sized carrot, shredded
1/3 cup pearl barley
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup plain yogurt (or substitute with heavy cream)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over low heat, and add the onions and celery along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until well softened, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and turmeric and cook, stirring, another 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, another minute. Add the carrots, barley, and stock and increase heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook covered 30-40 minutes, or until the barley is very tender.

Combine a ladle of the soup in a separate bowl with the yogurt and stir until smoothly incorporated. Pour the mixture into the soup and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve, or cover and chill before serving for up to 5 days.

Cost Calculator
(for 4-6 servings)

1 onion: .25
1 celery stalk: .25
1 carrot: .25
2 cloves garlic: .10
2 teaspoons tomato paste: .25
1/3 cup pearl barley: .40
6 cups chicken stock (homemade): $2.00
1/4 cup yogurt: $1.00
salt, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric: .20

Health Factor
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Four brownie points: It could use a vegetable side, but even without, this soup is a well-balanced bowl of nutrition. By using whole grain barley (or pearl barley, which is partially processed, with the bran removed), you’re getting fiber, protein, and a host of essential minerals, like manganese and small amounts of iron. Plenty of carrots ensures your Vitamin A for the day. Turmeric is associated with anti-inflammatory properties and has a warming effect on the body, soothing you for a cold winter’s day. I added some spinach to my soup later into the week of reheating it, to give it some variety and also add some Vitamin K.

Green Factor

Six maple leaves: It’s easy to make this soup from your pantry, as long as you have some good stock in the freezer (or can throw one together from odds and ends like vegetable trimmings). Aside from that, dry goods like barley and spices, winter produce like carrots and onion are all that you’ll need for this simple meal.

Persian Barley Soup (Soup-e Jo or Ash-e Jo)

Persian Barley Soup – Soup e Jo or Ash e Jo

Hey my friends out there in the virtual realm, let me ask you a few questions… are you currently wearing a scarf, battling a sniffly nose or experiencing ‘hands so cold I have to place them between my legs’-syndrome? I have just what you need!

The most comforting soup you’ll ever have. Persian Barley Soup, or Soup-e Jo or Ash-e Jo, is one of the simplest dishes yet one of the most soul-nourishing ever. Start with a few simple ingredients and you’ll have what every Persian mom made for their kid when they were sick / sad / or just needed a little extra love in their bowl.


Soup Jo is Cream of Barley Soup. It is very wholesome and satisfying and perfect for this time of year. It has the barley (jo) goodness combined with fresh ingredients. It is very healthy, thick and creamy without using any heavy cream. The secret is in the simple white sauce (bechamel sauce) that is made with low fat milk. The pearled barley naturally thickens this Soup Jo as it cooks. I cook the pearled barley ahead of time. It keeps well in the refrigerator for couple of days and in the freezer for several months. I cook a whole bag or box which is usually 22-24 ounces, use what I need and freeze the rest in small baggies. Soup Jo (Cream of Barley Soup) can be served with or without fresh lemon juice since it is added at the end after the soup is ready. If you’re not a big fan of citrus flavor in your soup you can easily leave it out.

Also sometimes I like to add a few barberries (zereshk) when serving Soup Jo. Zereshk is the sour berries of edible barberry bush sold in the Middle Eastern markets. For those of us who like zereshk, this is a very nice garnish, and if you’re like my daughter you will add a spoonful of these little berries to your soup. This is an optional garnish.

Saute the diced shallots in the stockpot until translucent. Add cooked barley and chicken stock and simmer until thickened

Grate a carrot and add it to the pot

Add more chicken stock, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper, simmer until nice and thick. For the vegetarian version of this recipe use vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock.

Meanwhile make the white sauce melt the butter in a nonstick 2-Qt saucepan

Add flour

Stir continuously

Until flour cooks into a golden color and has a nutty aroma, don’t overcook

Add half of the milk and whisk until thickened. Add the remaining milk and keep whisking until hot, but not thickened.

Add the hot white sauce to boiling soup and stir vigorously until all blended

Simmer Soup Jo to thicken a bit. Add the optional fresh lemon juice now and simmer for another couple of minutes, or just skip adding the lemon juice. Add the chopped fresh parsley and serve.

Serve Soup Jo with or without zereshk (barberries) and a slice of crusty bread. Enjoy!


Nathalie is a producer, photographer, videographer and writer based in Vancouver. Between travelling to Toronto and LA for film festivals, she enjoys cooking and dining around Vancouver's vibrant restaurant scene. She enjoys delicious, affordable eats in and around the city.

This evening, we decided to check it out and try a couple items on the menu.

We had the Sprite with Ribena Bulldog, Crispy Green Tea Ice Cream Sandwich, Wooden Bucket Tofu and of course, the Mahjong Dessert.

The Mahjong Dessert was my favourite out of all of them. The Mahjong tiles are made of coconut and read bean pudding. The money is made of rice paper (so yes, it’s edible as well!).

The dessert isn’t too sweet and very smooth. It was refreshing after eating dinner next door at the Meat Up.

The Wooden Bucket Tofu can come in different flavours – but the one we decided on was the black sesame. It was gelatinous, not at all watery.

On its own, its silky like beautiful dessert tofu, but it is made even better by the accompanying side toppings of brown sugar, white-sugar syrup and black sesame sauce. I found myself dipping my paper money from the Mahjong Dessert into the black sesame sauce.

The Crispy Green Tea sandwich is good but not as memorable as the other two. There is something very comforting and delicious about eating ice cream in crispy bread though. The matcha ice cream was delicious.

The Sprite with Ribena Bulldog was a bit too sweet for my palate, though my husband enjoyed it. Whatever little pearls they had inside this drink (not listed on the menu) was my favourite part. It was like crunching real bubbles – popped instantly and dissolved, so if you have someone adverse to tapioca pearls in your life, then this might be a better option to them.

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Recipe Summary

  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 lime wedges

Heat the chicken stock in a pot to a gentle simmer.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent. Add the pearl barley to the pot and stir for one minute. Stir in the hot chicken stock, turmeric, lime juice, tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.

Mix in the carrots and continue simmering 30 minutes or until the soup has thickened and the carrots and barley are tender. If the soup is too thick, add hot water, one tablespoon at a time.

Place the sour cream in a small bowl. Slowly pour 1/2 cup of hot soup mixture into sour cream, whisking constantly. Gradually add the sour cream mixture into the soup pot, whisking constantly. Stir in the fresh parsley. Serve with fresh lime wedges.

How to make Creamy Mushroom Soup with Barley

  1. Melt butter in a stockpot. Saute mushrooms, onion, salt, pepper, thyme, and parsley for about 4 minutes to soften.
  2. Stir in flour and blend a minute to blend in flour to veggies.
  3. Pour in veggie stock, water, Worcheshire, barely, milk, and simmer for 35-40minute.
  4. Taste for seasoning, reseason if needed. Serve with optional garnish, chopped fresh parsley, or thyme.

Soup-e Jo (Barley Soup)

Companionship of kind friends and a bit of indulgence in comfort food have been warming some of the cold winter nights for me this past season, here in beautiful Montana. We gather next door and the conversation goes anywhere from the infinity of the universe and the cosmos, to humorous confessions about alien abduction, to tips on how to meet the ladies.

As the gang discovered their newfound love for Persian food, I feel inspired to contribute more to our winter delights. Soup-e Jo was the first course of our previous gathering’s meal, served with my home baked Naan-e Barbari (Iranian bread). Both are easy to make, and as with any other Persian cooking, require some time. The saying goes گر صبر کنی٬ ز غوره حلوا سازی with a literal translation of, “with patience, you may make a sweet dessert out of sour grapes.”.

Here is an 80’s picture of a semi-religious family at a traditional dinner. Sitting cross legged was someth ing I never got quite used to, since we were spoiled with the comfort of chairs and tables at home.

I hope this rich and creamy soup suits your palate as it did ours. If you are concerned with that stubborn girth feel free to reduce, replace or omit the whip cream or enjoy the soup in small portions.

Just make sure to stir constantly when making this soup, to prevent the bottom layer from caking. Try your best not to let it boil.

Ingredients (6-8 servings) :

  • 1/2 cup pearled barley, soaked 1-2 hrs
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 Tbs grated carrot
  • 2 cups milk ( 2%)
  • 1.5 oz butter ( I am partial to Amish butter)
  • 4 -5 Tbs flour (all purpose or rice flour)
  • salt and pepper


  1. In a med. to lrg. pot add water bring to boil then add the barley, return to medium heat and let it to cook for about 30 minutes covered.
  2. Add the grated carrots and allow to simmer while white sauce is prepared.
  3. White sauce : In a small pot pour in the flour, while stirring, gradually pour the milk into the pot ’till the flour is completely dissolved. Place it on the stove top (on low heat) and stir constantly so the mixture thickens. Add salt & pepper to taste, and all of the butter. Bring to a boil then remove and pour in half the whip cream you are planning to use and stir.Your white sauce is ready now.
  4. Add the sauce to the soup and stir. Cook for 2-3 hrs on very low heat ’till soup thickens to your preference.
  5. Once the soup is ready you can add the rest of the whipping cream.

– Serve in a small bowl with warm naan or toast. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

KHORESH HAVIJ BA ALOO خورش هویج با آلو

Carrots are known and loved for their health benefits, their brilliant color and sweet taste, their year-round low price, and for their versatility in different recipes from sweet to savory dishes. Carrots add flavor and color to any recipe when shredded in salads like Salad e Kalam, diced in soups (Soup e Jo, and Soup e Morgh e Zaferani), sliced in stir fry and roasted or grilled with colorful root vegetables. Carrots are also the main component of this favorite Persian stew, Khoresh Havij Ba Aloo.
Havij is Farsi for carrot and Aloo is plum, in this case dried plum or prune. This Azeri/Persian stew (khoresh) is one of my mom’s recipes (Havij Khurushi in Azeri) and she used to make it often and I always loved it she made it without the prunes. This is a variation of her recipe and I’ve added prunes and fresh lemon juice. Carrots are julienned into thin sticks and are cooked with chunks of beef, plump prunes and lemon juice. The natural sweetness of prunes combined with the fresh lemon juice give this stew a lovely tangy flavor.
The beef is cubed into big chunks and is cooked in a pressure cooker for a shorter cooking time, but it may be cut into smaller cubes and cooked in a regular stockpot with some added time.

The carrots are julienned into sticks

Then they are cooked with very little oil in a covered large skillet until firm but tender.

Cook the cubed beef in the pressure cooker or in a stockpot until fork tender.

Add the cooked meat and the rest of the ingredients to the large skillet with carrots and onion mixture and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Serve over saffron rice and enjoy!

Khoresh Havij ba Aloo over rice is a fantastic meal any time of year, but it is especially warm and comforting in fall. I have also posted a mixed rice recipe with carrots called, Lubia Polo ba Havij that is layered with steamed aromatic rice.

Watch the video: Tchich with Octopus - Tunisias Soup (January 2022).