With the cursed daystar blessing us with hundred-degree weather as of late, underground living looks appealing. Why the seemingly random tangent? Because the game today’s recipe comes from is just about that. Not just living, though. Sunless Sea by Failbetter Games puts you in the role of a Victorian sea captain exploring a vast, underground seascape.
Click here to skip to the recipe for Sunless Sea-inspired Zzoup!
The Sunless Sea
The premise behind Sunless Sea is that several major cities fell through the ground into a massive cavern known as ‘Neath. You start your adventure in Fallen London as an “Unterzee” steamship captain with the ambition of your choosing. Whether you desire fame from slaying “zee monsters,” thrills from exploration, or money to retire comfortably, the ‘Zee is your putrid oyster!
Sounds dark? You don’t know the half of it. This is a gothic horror game overflowing with stories of loneliness, madness, and depravity. It’s not without its humor, though, from the disgusting pets you keep or the unsavory characters you meet. The game is as honestly funny as it is terrifying.
Example? I’ve settled a war between sapient rats and guinea pigs, worked at a post office for perpetually lost mail, and hosted a vacation cruise for zombies. Not with zombies, for zombies. Yes, tomb-colonists, as they’re referred to in Sunless Sea, have hopes and dreams, too. But their dreams usually consist of a comfortable retirement before completely rotting away.
Speaking of zombies, today’s recipe is all thanks to the dedicated research from a noted one, The Bandaged Poissonier.
The Vengeance of Jonah
In Sunless Sea’s Venderbight, an entire city of tomb-colonists, you may stumble upon a quaint restaurant known as The Vengeance of Jonah. Its chef and proprietor, the Bandaged Poissonier, may join your crew to “discover the Seventh Sensation” or “the taste that one tastes with the heart.”
He also seeks the secret recipe behind zzoup, the volcanic island of Mount Palmerson’s specialty described as: “The colour: old blood on snow. The taste: paprika, mushrooms, irony.”
As the only other edible listed in Sunless Sea is mushroom wine, I paid close attention to the Poissonier’s sacred quest. We both were rewarded handsomely:
When he emerges, his bandages are yellow with smoke. “I am victorious! The zzoup defied me, but I have broken it. Chantarelles from some soggy edge of London. Pig stock. A feisty dash of paprika. Lament-onions. Petals from the exile’s rose, which grows in Hell. And tears! From a hanged man or a heartbroken priest – I believe either would suffice.”
Since we do not live by the Sunless Sea, you can imagine creativity was key to this recipe’s development. First of all, the recipe itself sounds very similar to Hungarian mushroom soup. I mean, not specifically. But Lovecraftian poetic license turns the mundane into the horrific. I mean, technically, all onions make you cry. I chose red onions, though, as they’re a bit spicier.
Garlic sometimes goes by the alternate name “stinking rose” and enough of it on your breath could exile you from, at least, the room. I added some rosewater, though, to give it a ghostly whiff of perfume. As for the chanterelles, they’re not in season. Cremini (baby bella) mushrooms taste similar, however.
What really makes this soup, though, are its spices and seasonings. You’ll need two types of paprika: Hungarian and smoked. The first gives the heat associated with Mount Palmerson’s volcanic activity. The second emulates its brimstone. Black pepper makes your cremini mushrooms taste more like chanterelles. And finally, fish sauce imitates the briny tears your crew will shed when the Sunless Sea they stare into stares back.
Sing for your Supper!
If you plan to cook the recipes off the site, keep scrolling. However, while access to recipes on the blog will always be free, I also have printable PDF recipe cards and thematic cook-along Spotify playlists as rewards for those who choose to support the blog.
The printable recipe card and playlist for Sunless Sea-inspired Zzoup will be available as a $2 donor reward on my Ko-Fi page until the next post goes up.
You can instead join my Patreon community at the “Sing for your Supper” level ($1/month) for access to the playlists or the “It’s All in the Cards” level ($5/month) or higher for access to ALL of my blog recipe cards and playlists. To get you started, patrons of all reward tiers receive a welcome gift of my Lord of the Rings recipe cards and playlists from January 2019.
“Paprika, Mushrooms, Irony.”
Equipment: Stovetop, large saucepan with lid, wire whisk, and immersion blender.
- 16 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
- 1 red onion, diced
- 5 Tb bacon fat or salted butter
- 2 Tb all-purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 Tb smoked paprika
- 1/2 Tb hot Hungarian paprika
- 1 Tb fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 and 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 ham stock cubes
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 Tb rosewater
- kosher salt
- Preheat the saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Stir cook until the juices release ad the sizzling slows — about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a separate dish.
- Melt two tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan, then add the onions. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until browned and translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for 45 seconds until fragrant, then scrape the contents of the pan into the bowl of mushrooms.
- Melt the remaining bacon fat in the pan, then whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk over medium-low heat until the mixture smells slightly nutty.
- Pour in the water, fish sauce, and half of the sour cream and whisk until smooth. Stir in the spices and vegetables, then bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and blend the soup smooth with the immersion blender. Whisk in the rosewater, a 1/4 cup of sour cream, and kosher salt to taste.
- Divide the soup between serving bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a dash of paprika before serving.