In addition to being a cherished main course in homes and restaurants, a national dish embodies a nation's complex history, culinary ecology, and cultural identity.

Puerto Rico's national soup, asopao, is rooted in its turbulent colonization and multicultural, multi-racial identity, with a wide range of recipes locals enjoy.

Asopao is a brothy rice soup seasoned with sofrito, tomato sauce, peppers, and herbs and filled with any number of proteins or vegetables. It can sometimes resemble a stew.

Puerto Rican cuisine is influenced by Spanish and African cultures. Local food historians say asopao is a mix of saffron rice and gumbo, using Caribbean ingredients and flavors.

Asopao de mariscos, a Puerto Rican seafood gumbo with the same brothy rice base, and asopao de gandules, which uses pigeon peas instead of rice and stewed oxtail or pork, are other variations. 

Variations on asopao depend on regional ingredient availability, and each household has its own family recipe. Asopao is popular in Puerto Rico due to its versatility, adaptability, and accessibility.

There is no one recipe that is the best; instead, every home cook and restaurant chef is free to alter and season their food however they see fit. While some asopao dishes are more soupy, others are more risotto-like in texture.

In winter and on rainy days, asopao is a comforting hot dish made with spices, dumplings, rice, and various meats and seafood. Like chicken soup, it's a classic cure-all for colds and hangovers. 

Smoked meats, olives, capers, avocado slices, and peas are garnishes. Asopao is served with tostones or thick bread to soak up the flavorful broth-saturated rice in many Puerto Rican restaurants and homes.

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