A soup with an edible bowl? Genius!

One of San Francisco’s most famous foods is the clam chowder bread bowl. At CISL, we consider it a “must try” food while living and studying in the U.S.

What IS a clam chowder bread bowl? The dish consists of clam chowder, which is a thick soup made of clams, cream, potatoes, celery, onions, herbs (and sometimes bacon). Instead of being served in a bowl, like most soups, the chowder is served in a round sourdough bread loaf which has had the inside part removed to make a bowl. It is the perfect meal for a cold day on California’s coast!

What makes the bread bowl so delicious? Perhaps it is the combination of the tangy sourdough and the creamy soup. Or perhaps it is the process of making sourdough bread that is so intriguing. Making sourdough bread requires the use of a special yeast which gives the bread that tangy flavor. Often, the yeast is highly prized because it is the same strain of yeast that the baker has used for years. With each batch of dough, the baker sets aside a small portion: this portion, called the “mother dough” will be the base of tomorrow’s dough, and the yeast in this small portion of dough will multiply and give the bread the delicious flavor of sourdough. This ensures that the bread will have the same flavor as the loaf before it, so the taste is always consistent.

Boudin has been making bread in San Francisco since 1849.

Because of its location close to the sea and its chilly winter days, San Francisco has popularized the bread bowl. Where is the best place to get a REAL San Francisco clam chowder bread bowl? Every San Franciscan has a different opinion. We suggest starting at the place which made the bread bowl really famous: Boudin at the Fisherman’s Wharf. The place is popular for tourists and locals, and has been serving clam chowder since 1849! Boudin was founded during the California Gold Rush by a family of French bakers. They proudly state that the same strain of yeast has been used since the restaurant’s opening over 150 years ago. Impressive! Boudin is the perfect lunch stop during a day visiting the Wharf. If you are really interested in the restaurant and its bread-making process, you can take one of the restaurant’s guided tours through the restaurant and its museum (or call ahead and schedule a private tour for groups of 10 or more).

Vocabulary (in order of appearance)

Edible (adj): able to eat

Consists of (verb + preposition): is made of

Loaf (noun): the name for a whole unit of bread

Tangy (adj): a flavor used to describe things that have a sour, acidic, or citrus taste. Examples include oranges, vinegar, and salad dressings.

Intriguing (adj): interesting

Yeast (noun): a live bacteria that makes bread rise and gives it flavor. Yeast also makes beer and wine turn into alcohol beverages.

Strain (noun): there are many types of yeast. A type of yeast is called a strain.

Ensure (verb): to make sure, guarantee

Consistent (adj): the same

Chilly (adj): a little cold (not extremely cold)