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Saas meat soup
Saas meat soup

How a poor man's soup became a gourmet classic

Saas meat soup: an insider tip for gourmets. This Saas speciality has grown somewhat more luxurious than it was in the past, and even more tempting than ever.

Some dishes which have been traditionally thought of as paupers’ fare have grown to become culinary classics. The most obvious local examples are Valais raclette and cheese fondue. In earlier days, when farmers returned to their alpine pastures for the summer and found dried out cheeses from the previous year in their huts, there was no way they were letting the old cheese go to waste. In these times of extreme poverty, a ‘waste not, want not’ thrift was key: nothing edible was thrown away. Even if the cheese had hardened so much that a knife wouldn’t do, even if only a hatchet would go through it. In that case, the pieces of hacked apart cheese would be placed in a pan and heated over the fire until they melted. This was where our beloved fondue originated, eaten with jacket potatoes. If the cheese simply couldn’t be chopped, the whole wheel would be held over the fire. The melting cheese could then be scraped off and eaten alongside potatoes. The result was what we now call a raclette. Born out of necessity in poorer times, these dishes became well known and loved.

The history of Saaser Fleischsuppe (Saas meat soup) of the past is somewhat distant from what we enjoy today. Calling it meat soup at all back then was certainly stretching the definition of meat. The Saas folk of the past used every single part of the animals they slaughtered, even using the bones several times over. They added rock-hard bread to the ever-thinner bouillon. So hard, in fact, that it had to be chopped with a “Brothacker ” (a kind of axe). Some sort of dry cheese or possibly a cheese rind followed. At times, they might also add some potatoes. The soup of the poor was filling if not much else.

Today, Saaser meat soup is a speciality. It can be found in various restaurants in the Saas Valley but it’s starkly different from the old days. Today‘s gourmet chefs use high-quality bouillon, fresh, pillowy bread and delicious cheese blends. I wanted a detailed recipe for this Saas delicacy to publish in this magazine, but none of the chefs I asked would tell me theirs. Trade secret. They all admitted to using bouillon, bread, and cheese, but that was the end of the conversation.

So those of you wanting to discover this traditional Saas speciality have no choice but to go out and try it for yourselves. This author would be grateful for your recommendations.