Szechuan Vegetable Soup with Tofu

dsc_0790RECIPE #274, DAY #464

FOUR STARS

ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Sichuan Vegetable Soup with Bean Curd,” from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian*

TIMING: 20 minutes, or less once you get everything all chopped up

DIFFICULTY: Fairly easy, but that you’re working with unfamiliar ingredients and have to plan head

TOOLS: A soup pot, although I prefer a wok

COOK TYPE: Stovetop

HEALTH: This soup is unequivocally good for you. Vegetarian, and filled with bone-warming broth, veggies, fungi, and tofu, you can’t really go wrong. Even the added chili and pepper will help to clear your head, etc. If you are sick, this is perfect food, but on a regular day it may lack satiety.

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EXPERIENCE: This was a stretch, and I mean that two ways. First, I was purposely trying to stretch the budget for the week, and vegetarian is always the first place I go, tofu second. It was also a stretch for a family of four, meaning, what kid likes mushrooms and tofu in a brothy soup? Not many American ones, let me assure you. But I love mushrooms, which means I refuse to swear them off long term, and my husband loves tofu. Still, brothy vegetable soup?

It went off about as expected. The kids were not thrilled, although my daughter quietly suffered hers down. My husband–averse to mushrooms–would not visit it again. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed its full, warming taste and would really appreciate a bowl of it the next time I have a head cold. Please.

NOTES: As with most Chinese cooking, it is all about the mise en place. You should never start a Chinese recipe without stopping and doing three things: 1) Procuring any odd ingredients you may need; 2) Reading all the directions; 3) Prepping all your food. Much of Chinese cooking is done at high heat and so very fast, not allowing you to putz around chopping onions while your meat browns, or whatever. I mean it! Chop and measure, first!

Some mushrooms will necessitate soaking and draining, like the recommended black fungus or a dried shiitake.

I don’t know how particularly authentic this recipe is, but it has a nice, vegetarian world flavor.

***

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, place 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Whisk in 4 cups vegetable (r chicken) stock, 2 teaspoons black bean sauce (or hoison), 2 tablespoons Mirin or dry Chinese white wine, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar. Set aside.
  2. In a soup pot or large wok, heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil over high heat. When hot, stir-fry 1 sliced clove garlic and 1 minced teaspoon ginger for 5 seconds. Add 2 small-diced carrots and 1/2 cup small-diced bamboo shoot and stir-fry for for 30 seconds. Add 2 types of small-cut mushrooms (I used shiitake slices and bunapi tops) and stir-fry another 30 seconds.
  3. Re-whisk your broth mixture and add to the wok. Bring to a boil and taste for salt, seasonings, (lots of) black pepper, and chili oil.
  4. Reduce to simmer and add 1 package diced, silken (or extra firm) tofu. Simmer for 2 minutes and add 1 sliced scallion and 1/2 cup defrosted peas. Simmer for 1 final minute.
  5. Serve drizzled with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil and Sambal on the side.

***

Serve with nothing but hot tea, if you are under the weather or cooking for one in a rainy day. Otherwise, serve as part of a Szechuan dinner, like with Kung Pao Chicken, Tea Duck, Deep Fried Chicken, or Dan Dan Noodles.

*Recipe changed from the original.

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