This fragrant French onion soup recipe makes a classic French onion soup with a subtle Southeast Asian twist. Inspired by French chef Raymond Blanc’s vegetarian French onion soup recipe, which uses toasted flour to add a nuttiness to the broth, I’ve added a little fish sauce for umami and star anise for aroma and flavour to create a deeply-flavoured onion soup.
My French onion soup recipe will make you one of the most iconic French recipes, a fragrant and deeply flavoured French onion soup that has a hint of Southeast Asian spice and umami, thanks to star anise and a fine quality fish sauce. Oui. Je suis désolé. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself.
Firstly, I’m Australian, which means that I’m born with a natural tendency to reach for anything in the pantry to adjust a recipe or dish to my taste. It’s in my genes. The Australian taste knows no bounds. If you’re Australian or you’ve eaten in Australia, you’ll understand.
Secondly, I’m an Australian based in Southeast Asia for almost a dozen years, which means that almost everything I cook is imbued with Southeast Asian spices, herbs and ingredients. I even add a little fish sauce to my traditional Russian family recipes.
Lastly, we live in Cambodia, which was a French protectorate for around a century, and while the French culinary influence on Cambodian cuisine is often noted, if you’ve eaten your way through Paris you’ll also know there are countless French chefs influenced by former Indochine, so why not? Pourquoi pas?
Before I tell you all about this French onion soup recipe, I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve cooked our recipes and enjoyed them, please consider supporting Grantourismo by using our links to buy travel insurance, rent a car or campervan or motorhome, book accommodation, or book a tour on Klook or Get Your Guide. You could also browse our Grantourismo store for gifts for food lovers, including fun reusable cloth face masks designed with Terence’s images.
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Now let me tell you all about my French onion soup recipe.
French Onion Soup Recipe for a Fragrant Deeply Flavoured Onion Soup with a Southeast Asian Twist
My French onion soup recipe – inspired by chef Raymond Blanc’s vegetarian French onion soup recipe, which uses toasted flour to give it a nuttiness – will make you a fragrant and deeply flavoured French onion soup that has a hint of Southeast Asian spice and umami, thanks to star anise and a fine quality fish sauce.
I have to confess to being a lifelong French onion soup lover but not a maker. Terence has long been the cook of the French onion soups in our household. The wonderful hearty French onion broth that he’s made for decades was based on Julia Child’s classic French onion soup recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
While the French onion soup of my childhood, which was very similar, was made by my mother and was probably based on the French onion soup recipe in Larousse Gastronomique. I’m making this assumption, as dad and I bought her the book for her birthday and Mother’s Day in the mid-1970s – along with the Joy of Cooking.
Though Mum may have had an earlier edition of Larousse, as my parents owned a French restaurant on the beach on the Central Coast of New South Wales, a short drive north of Sydney. It was called La Mer d’Or, the Golden Sea.
I don’t know why, as the sea was cobalt coloured, but I do remember the colourful matchboxes and I know that there was a French onion soup was on the menu.
This is all to say that while I have been slurping French onion soup my whole life, it was only recently that I took it upon myself to make a French onion soup, and naturally, I messed with it. As I said, je suis désolé. I’m sorry, I blame my upbringing.
Just a few tips to making this French onion soup infused with Asian flavours.
Tips to Making this French Onion Soup Recipe
Just a few tips to making this French onion soup imbued with Southeast Asian flavours. Raymond Blanc’s recipe calls for the flour to be toasted for 30 minutes in the oven at 170°C, however, my flour was nice and brown and toasty after 3 minutes so that could have been a typo.
We cook everything in a wok, so we use a wok for this French onion soup recipe as well. While this remains a slow-cooked soup, it’s a little faster. When we first followed the chef’s recipe it took a couple of hours to make the soup. The wok reduces the time significantly.
The chef recommends adding the toasted flour directly to the onions and then whisking to avoid lumps. I suggest adding the toasted flour to boiling water in a measuring jug and then adding that to the wok so you don’t have to concern yourself with lumps.
If you don’t use Asian spices or fish sauce, perhaps start with half my suggested amounts, taste, and then add the rest if you like. I actually add twice as much as I’ve recommend in this recipe, however, I use this stuff every day.
I’ve stuck with the chef’s choice of Comté cheese as I adore cheese but I don’t like those French soups that are completely covered in a thick layer of gooey cheese. That’s my preference but you do as you like. Bon appétit!
French Onion Soup Recipe
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 80 g butter
- 1 kg white onions - sliced, 5mm width
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp virgin olive oil
- 100 ml water - boiling
- 200 ml dry white wine - boiled for 30 seconds
- 900 ml cold water
- 1 tsp star anise
- ½ tsp quality fish sauce - optional
- 8 x 1cm slices baguette
- 200 g Comté cheese - grated
- Preheat the oven to 170°C and sprinkle the flour onto a small baking tray and toast for a few minutes until brown. Watch carefully as it can burn easily.
- When brown, remove from the oven, stir through with a fork stir to separate, and leave to cool.
- In a round flat-bottomed wok, on high heat, melt the butter then add the onion slices and stir frequently until the onions start to soften.
- Season with salt, pepper and sugar, add the olive oil, combine well, turn the heat down to medium, then put the lid on, but continue to stir every few minutes or so.
- Remove the lid and stir-fry the onions until they brown, scraping any caramelised onion from the base of the wok so they don’t burn. If needed, add a tablespoon of water.
- When the onions are an even brown colour, turn the heat down.
- Add the toasted flour to a measuring jug, then add 100ml of boiling water, whisk to ensure there are no lumps, then add to the onions, and combine.
- Gradually stir in the white wine and half the cold water, bring to the boil, then add the rest of the cold water, and bring to a boil again.
- Turn the heat down to low, add the star anise and fish sauce, then simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your palate.
- Grill the baguette slices on a baking tray, toasting them on both sides until golden.
- Divide the onion soup between the bowls, pop a couple of baguette slices onto the top of the soup of each bowl, sprinkle the grated Comté cheese onto the baguette slices.
- Places the bowls onto the baking tray and return to the grill until the cheese has melted and is bubbling, and serve immediately with more freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
Please do let us know if you make this French onion soup recipe with a Southeast Asian twist as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.