Monday, January 08, 2007

"Dan's Soup"

What the heck have I been eating this week? Honestly, I couldn't tell you -- I haven't cooked much of anything noteworthy! I think I defrosted some leftover lentil soup at one point, cleaned up some leftovers in my fridge, and, of course, had some pasta. :) What is it about spaghetti with marinara that is just so damn satisfying?

I did cook one impressive dish this week . . . it all started with going out for Thai food with Dan a while ago, and watching him rave about and devour a large quantity of tom yum (sp?) soup. I wanted a bite of the soup so desperately, but it's loaded with chicken . . . boo! So, I filed away an idea in the back of my brain -- seek out and vegetize a tom yum soup recipe!

One of my projects for the week between Christmas and New Year's was flipping through, chopping out any noteworth recipes, and then recycling the mountain of food periodicals I had littering my apartment. (I subscribe to Eating Well, Cooking Light, Cook's Illustrated, and Vegetarian Times, as well as Real Simple, which has some nice recipes in the back.) While flipping through an issue of Cook's, what did I stumble upon, but a recipe for "Thai-Style Chicken Soup!" As I read through the recipe, I realized this was, what I had come to call in my head, "Dan's Soup." Let the vegetizing begin!

Saturday, I went to the Wedge to collect a few ingredients I did not already have on hand -- lemongrass, shallots, more mushrooms, jasmine rice, and more tofu. I also needed to solve the fish sauce dilemma -- most Thai food calls for fish sauce, and I figured the Wedge would have a vegetarian alternative for me. I asked a Wedge employee, she chatted with three other Wedge employees, and they determined the closest vegetarian alternative to fish sauce would be "Concentrated Shiitake Mushroom Broth." I read the ingredients in the mushroom broth, looked at the fish sauce, and stood in the aisle debating for several minutes. I ended up purchasing the fish sauce. Why? Because the fish sauce was $2.89, the shiitake mushroom broth was almost ten bucks for about half as much, and I am dirt poor these days. I'm a broke vegetarian, so I decided to "cheat." Next time, I'll buy the shiitake mushroom broth -- but for now, I'll use up the fish sauce. Regardless, it's nice to know that there's an alternative out there!

In the end, it was a snap to prepare, Dan was impressed (he walked in my apartment and exclaimed, "do I smell lemongrass?!?!") and so friggin' tasty, this one's going in my regular repertoire. Photo op (after I had started eating, so the presentation is not quite perfect):


Here's the recipe, adapted from Cook's Illustrated:

Yields four meal-sized portions (I cut the recipe in half when I made it, and it was almost too much for Dan and I to get through in one sitting.)

INGREDIENTS (organic whenever possible):
1 teaspoon canola oil
bottom 5 inches of 3 lemongrass stalks, halved and thinly sliced (remove any tough outer leaves)
3 large shallots, chopped
8 sprigs fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons fish sauce OR concentrated shiitake mushroom broth, divided
4 cups vegetable stock/broth (preferably low-sodium)
2 14-ounce cans light coconut milk
1 tablespoon natural granulated sugar
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, sliced
1 14 to 16 ounce package firm, water-packed tofu, pressed and diced small
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
sliced green onions and additional cilantro leaves for garnish
hot cooked jasmine rice

1. Saute lemongrass and shallots in oil over medium heat until soft. Add cilantro and 1 tablespoon fish/shiitake sauce and continue cooking 2 minutes.
2. Add vegetable broth and 1 can coconut milk. Bring soup to a high simmer. Lower heat, cover partially, and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain broth, discard solids, and return it to the pan.
3. Add remaining coconut milk, sugar, mushrooms, and tofu to pan. Return the soup to a high simmer, and cook for an additional five minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender.
4. Whisk together the lime juice, remaining 2 tablespoons of fish/shiitake sauce, and red curry paste. Stir this mixture into the soup and heat through.
5. Mound about 1 cup of jasmine rice in the middle of a soup bowl. Ladle the soup over and around the rice, and garnish with the green onions and cilantro.



Jen said...

Recipe title suggestion: "Dan's Yum Soup"? ;-)

Kelly said...

Found your blog! Your Tom Yum looks great. Had fun last night, great getting to know you better.

Anonymous said...

Hey Catherine!

Your soup looks great!

Isn't the Wedge expencive sometimes? Bryanna Clark Grogan has a recipe for a vegetarian "oyster sauce" that would probably work for "fish sauce," I would think. It is a free recipe in her archives, but it took a lot of searching to find! Rather than just tell you to go search, I will post it here:

Bryanna's "oyster" sauce:

***Note on Mushrooms: For the dried mushrooms, you don’t need expensive shiitakes—just use the inexpensive dried Chinese mushrooms that are easily available. Snap off the stems and discard them, then grind the mushrooms to a powder in a DRY blender or coffee/spice grinder (well-cleaned).
**Note on Chinese Brown Bean Sauce: This is a very common Chinese ingredient and should be available wherever Chinese foods are sold. It is also known as “brown bean paste”, “yellow bean paste or sauce’, “soybean condiment”, “Yuan Shai Shih” or “Mo Yuen Shih”. If, however, you can’t find it, substitute a mild brown miso, mixed with a bit of water to make a softer mixture, sort of halfway between a sauce and a paste.

1 and 1/2 c. boiling water
6 T. ground dried Chinese mushrooms (see ***note above)
6 T. Chinese brown bean sauce (see **note above)
6 T. soy sauce
6 generous T. dark unbleached or brown sugar, or Sucanat
1 T. cornstarch dissolved in 1 T. cold water

Blend all the ingredients except the dissolved cornstarch in a blender (leave the plastic thing out of the center hole in the blender lid and cover with a folded towel, so that the hot liquid doesn’t explode) until as smooth as possible. Pour into in a medium saucepan and heat to boiling over high heat. Add the dissolved cornstarch and stir until thickened. Cool and store in a covered jar or bottle in the refrigerator. Since it is quite salty and sweet, it should keep for several months.

Microwave Option: You can, alternately, microwave the mixture, with the cornstarch, in a medium bowl and cook on HI for 1 minute, then whisk. Repeat until thickened.

I have not made this recipe, but the recipes I have used from her have turned out great. I hope this is helpful! From one broke vegan to another...


Anonymous said...

A note on replacing the fish sauce: a little internet research shows that you can replace fish sauce with some soy sauce/tamari. The fish sauce lends a saltiness to a recipe.
My local Thai place, Bahn Thai, always veganizes their dishes for me and that is what they do as well when there is normally fish sauce in a dish.
That seems much cheaper (and easier and better for the animals) than fish sauce or mushroom concentrate or the oyster sauce. Maybe you could try that next and see if it affects the taste.
Good luck, and Happy New Year!

Judy said...

I absolutely love fish sauce, and I have often wondered what vegans use in its place. And that soup looks great, and I bet it smelled even better!

Anonymous said...

The soup looks ver good, thanks for share the recipe!

Harmonia said...

Nifty soup! :) I posted my latest attempt as well!

ernie said...

I was reading your article
and thought you might be interested in this Thai cooking website with online “how to” videos you can watch for free. Thought some of your readers might be interested