Deli-style split pea soup, the kind you'll find at any corner deli's hot/cold salad bar at any hour of the day or night you might need it, is as quintessentially a New York eat as bagels or pizza.
This post is part of the Eating New York series.
If you've got pictures of overstuffed pastrami sandwiches dancing in your head when you hear "deli," I don't mean to disappoint, but get those out of your mind. We're not talking here about those nostalgia-inflected, I'll-have-what-she's-having, kosher-style (don't even get me started on kosher-style) delis. We're talking about actual New York delis, with the hot/cold salad bar, pre-packaged sushi, and coconut water. Frequented by live-on-the-block walkers-by, late-night ice-cream emergency situations, students from the suburbs, those with exactly three minutes to procure lunch, and pretty much all of us at one time or another, the (Korean) deli is the bread and butter of Manhattan convenience stores. And its trademark offering, as I see it, is that jewel of the salad bar, the deli split pea soup. Always available, about as comforting a thing as you can buy for a few bucks on a literally or metaphorically cold city day, deli split pea soup may not be bagels or pizza, but it's no quintessentially New York.
Making the soup
This is one of the easiest soups you'll make. The split peas don't require soaking, and get obligingly velvety just by an ordinary simmering (or a go in the Instant Pot—both methods included in the recipe). The soup is started with a classic soup base of aromatics (onions and garlic), celery, and carrots. We're going to be pureeing the soup (well, halfway), so the onion and celery doesn't have to be finely minced. Deli soup always has little cubes of carrot in it, so I peel, quarter, then dice the carrots. I make sure to leave a few of them un-pureed for the deli effect. Otherwise, you brown the onion a bit, add the veg, then dump in the dry split peas and stock and let it simmer away. Not for that long, even.
I like pureeing the soup right in the pot using an immersion blender. This way you can leave it with a little texture. You could also pour it into a blender, though your deli-style carrot bits might not survive.
Deli-Style Split Pea Soup (parve)
- Immersion blender (or a regular blender)
- 1 lb dried green split peas - 450 g
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion - chopped
- 1 clove garlic - minced
- 2 medium carrots - peeled, quartered, and diced
- 2 celery stalks with leaves - diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- pepper, to taste
- 6 cups vegetable stock - 1.5 L
- In a stockpot or Instant Pot insert, heat the olive oil. Sauté the onions until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, carrots, and celery to the pot on top of the onions. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the bay leaves and thyme to the pot, and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the vegetable stock to the pot and stir.
- For stovetop, bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours.
Instant Pot method:
- Cook on manual high pressure for 30 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally.
Finish the soup:
- Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until mostly smooth and silky, with some carrots remaining.