Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vegetable Soup to Soothe your Body and Soul


As much as I love my neighborhood Chinese restaurant Szechuan House, I hate it even more because its closed on Sundays. My Monday Blues sets in from Sunday afternoon. And nothing can be more uplifting for my spirits than a bowl of piping hot Chinese Vegetable Soup from that very restaurant. How I wish they would be open on Sundays too!!!

I have told you that I love Japanese food. And Mediterranean. And Italian. Not to forget Mexican, Lebanese, American, Middle Eastern, etc.etc.etc... But honestly the only food that comes closest to my heart apart form my own Indian food is Chinese Food. Indian-Chinese to be precise. Its like my soul food. I have grown up loving that kind of food the most. Its actually more Indian than Chinese but that's its main charm. Read more on this beautiful fusion cuisine here.






When I first landed in the US, I was mighty disappointed with the taste of Chinese food here. But I realized that like the Chinese immigrants in India tailor made their cuisine to suite the Indian palate, the American Chinese did exactly the same thing. They sweetened up everything and mellowed the heat to suite the American palate.

The best part of having a Chinese restaurant within walking distance of your home is that you frequent it so often that you can actually have food made as per your specifications. Though its not an official review for Szechuan House, I must add that its one of the few Chinese eatery that offers a healthy 'All Steamed, No M.S.G, Oil, Or Corn Starch' options to. I totally dig into their Steamed Chicken and Shrimp with Vegetable served on a bed of brown rice. Another favorite is their broth based Chinese Vegetable Soup. Its a very light watery broth based soup loaded with vegetable. And when I says its loaded... its LOADED; it has broccoli, carrots, snow peas, two kinds of mushroom, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and Napa cabbages. All the veggies are crunchy and the broth is very lightly flavored. It might be a bit bland for some, but I completely adore it. Its my comfort soup of sorts, especially when I am all stubbed up with cold and cough, which is most part of the year!





But every time I tried to recreate the same in my kitchen, it was a disaster. Somehow, my veggies never remained crisp, crunchy and vibrant. Even though I was pally with the chef, I still could not squeeze out any recipe out of him. But seeing my despair, he simply said, "don't boil the veggies in the broth".





That did the trick, I just boiled the broth and sauteed the veggies separately and served them together. And voila!!! It was the exact taste that I craved for. The soup can feel a tad boring for some. But the addition of finely chopped scallion green and the kick from the vinegar chilies lifts up the soup to a whole new level. Other seasonings like crushed black pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce or chili oil can be added as per preferences.

This Soup tastes best with the freshest vegetables and with home-made vegetable or chicken stock. However, every time I have made this soup, I have used store bought organic chicken stock. Works just fine. And you can use whatever vegetable you have on hand right then.

Works wonders for your body and soul especially when you are all clogged up with the cold and flu.


Recipe Snapshot: Vegetable Soup 

Serves: 3 serving

(1 serving = 1 cup)

What I used:
Chicken or Vegetable Stock (Homemade or store bought) – 4 cups 


Assorted Vegetables – 4 cups

(I had used a combination of Carrots, Broccoli, Shiitake Mushroom, Snow Peas)

Garlic – 4 fat cloves, minced or very thinly sliced
Ginger - 2" piece, very finely minced or grated
Flavorless cooking oil (like canola or vegetable oil) – 2 tsp
Salt
Scallions/ Green Onions (only the green part) and 
Green Chilies-in-Vinegar* for Garnish

What I did:
1. Clean, wash and chop all the vegetables that you'll be using.

2. In a small sauce pan bring the chicken or vegetable stock to a boil on medium heat.

3. Meanwhile in a wok or a pan, heat a little bit of oil and add the minced or thinly sliced garlic and the ginger. 

4. Let it sizzle for few seconds. Do not let it brown. Add all the prepped vegetables and salt to taste and saute it for not more than 2 minutes.

5. Divide the sauteed vegetables into serving bowl and top with piping hot stock. 

6. Serve immediately with a garnish of scallion greens and Green Chilies-in-Vinegar

*Green Chili-in-vinegar is a very common condiment served in Chinese restaurants across India. Its sad that Chinese restaurants in the US do not serve them. Making it at home is simple enough and I make it every time I cook Chinese styled noodles or soup. In a glass or non-reactive bowl add half a cup of white vinegar. Slice 15-20 potent green chilies (I prefer the tiny Thai ones) and add to the vinegar. Let it sit for 15 min before serving. Adds a spicy zing to your soups and noodles!

Tips: To make this light soup into a substantial lunch add some protein (tofu or poached chicken) and a handful of cooked noodles.






Diabetic Platter:
Virtually fat free with loads of fresh veggies. A perfect start to a healthy dinner. A great first course. Can be turned into a substantial lunch option with just an addition of complex carbs like whole wheat noodles/spaghetti and lean protein like tofu or poached chicken breasts. A winner all the way! 

4 comments:

  1. Aah... the green-chili in vinegar... brings back memories of family getting together at 'Hong Kong' restaurant! Love the soup... looks yum!

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    Replies
    1. True... I loved 'Hong Kong' restaurant too.... Honestly I cannot imagine Chinese food with out 'green-chili in vinegar'

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  2. My fav dish !! Love the smell and the tangy taste, :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Nupur for stopping by... I LOVE Soups... especially Chinese style one loaded with veggies and topped with tonnes of tangy vinegar chilies!!!

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