Whether you’re feeling under the weather or it’s just a crisp day in El Salvador, it’s time for the comforting warmth of sopa de pata. As with most hearty soups, it features a blend of starch (yucca), spices (such as garlic, onion, achiote, and cumin), and meat. Unlike other soups, however, what gives sopa de pata its signature flavor is cow hooves.
Making cow’s feet soup begins with washing the hooves in lemon juice until they lose their barnyard aroma. What the feet lack in meat, they make up for in flavor: The bones are filled with buttery, savory marrow, and when simmered in liquid, the marrow and gelatin release to create a rich and full-bodied broth.
The practice of boosting your broth with bones isn’t unique to El Salvador. Vietnam’s famous pho also uses beef bones as a key flavoring agent.