Thursday, February 12, 2015

Vietnamese Vegetable Soup with Coconut Rice

By now, you know how much I adore soup. My Vietnamese vegetable soup is a quick take on traditional slow simmering pho ga. Chicken is added for protein. Tofu or shrimp work well too. Here, a light and flavorful broth is loaded with lots of tender-crisp Asian vegetables, spicy ginger and a finish of fresh lime. Soft hints of warm spices lend an authentic taste to the soup. Earthy mushrooms and soy sauce give it an umami flavor. 

This glorious soup leaves me feeling restored and content, especially during cold and flu season. It's a deliciously nutritious meal. It's ready in under 30 minutes and you control the sodium level. As the rice cooks and the soup simmers, the kitchen fills with sunny aromas. If you're in need of a reboot, put on your PJ's, line up your favorite movies, make a big pot of Vietnamese soup and slurp your stress away.

Words cannot describe how much I love pho. I used to eat it every day when I was a social worker in Philadelphia, PA. A big bowl of pho restored my work weary soul. Southeast Asian food is an absolute favorite of mine. Do you love it too? All the bright flavors and textures of Vietnamese and Thai cuisine give me a lift, especially in the North-Pole like weather we've been having recently in Boston

I like to serve it with coconut rice, plain Jasmine rice or rice noodles. Thai basil and sriracha sauce is also a must. I remember the first time I had coconut rice, many moons ago, in a Burmese restaurant in Philadelphia's Chinatown. I thought it was something special. It's easy to make. My recipe produces a creamy rice with tons of coconut flavor. The rice gives the soup a lushness which pairs well with the tangy lime. Coconut rice is also great with other Southeast Asian meals such as chicken satay.

Vietnamese Soup with Coconut Rice Recipe 

Serves 4-6

Some Notes:

The broth is vegan, so omit the chicken or swap it for tofu if you're in the mood.

Cinnamon gives it a pho flavor. Don't skip it. I use delicious Vietnamese cinnamon.

If you'd like to add rice noodles instead of coconut rice then cook the noodles according to the package directions. My packages always instructed me to rinse them in cold water after cooking. Toss them with a little coconut oil or spray them with a some cooking spray to keep them from clumping together. Set aside. When you're ready to serve the soup, add the rice noodles to bowls and ladle the hot soup over them. Keeping the coconut rice and noodles separate from the soup ensure that they won't soak up all the broth and get mushy.

My favorite Rapunzel vegetable bouillon gives the soup a wonderful base and clean taste. Oh how I love it! I find it at Whole Foods or buy it online at Amazon. It's a lifesaver for quick soups like this one. It's easy to store and tastes like homemade stock. I am not a fan of the premade boxed broths and stocks. But you can swap it and the water for 8 cups of your favorite broth or stock.

The coconut rice recipe produces a rich and creamy rice with great coconut flavor. The key flavor enhancers are coconut oil, coconut cream and pure coconut extract. I like  Olive Nation Brand Pure Coconut Extract.  

Ingredients For The Coconut Rice 

  • 2 cups jasmine rice 
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure coconut extract (optional but good)
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt  
  • 2 cups water

 Instructions For The Coconut Rice 

Rinse the rice in water and drain. I use a rice rinser for this. Add the rice to a small pot with all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and stir. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer very gently for 15-20 minutes.  

Ingredients For The Vietnamese Soup

  • 6 baby bok choy, chopped (or 2 generous cups of chopped regular bok choy)
  • 1 bunch of scallions (5-6) diced, reserve the dark green part for garnish
  • 2 cups of shiitake mushrooms or regular white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups of snow peas
  • 1 cup of bean sprouts (optional) 
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1-2 limes
  • 1 pound of boneless chicken breast, diced into bite size pieces. I use diced boneless chicken tenders (shrimp or tofu will work too).   
  • 5 vegetable bouillon cubes. I use Rapunzel No Salt Vegan Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. I use Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon.
  • 3 whole cloves or a pinch of ground cloves (optional but good)
  • 8 cups of water
  • Soy sauce to taste. I use shoyu.
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • To Serve: lime wedges, Thai basil, sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce

Instructions For the Vietnamese Soup 

Put 8 cups of water, the bouillon cubes, the white and light green parts of the scallions, carrots, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, salt and pepper into a large soup pot and bring to a gentle boil. I grate the ginger and garlic directly into the pot with a microplane zester. Cover and simmer for about 5-8 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Stir in the mushrooms and the chopped chicken (if using) and bring back up to a gentle boil. Simmer covered for about 5-8 minutes or until the chicken is done. Add the bok choy and the snow peas and bean sprouts (if using) to the soup. Give it a good stir. Remove the whole cloves. Cook for another minute, keeping the snow pea pods bright green. Squeeze some lime juice into the soup and serve it in bowls with a scoop of coconut rice. Alternatively, you can ladle the hot soup over cooked rice noodles. Stir in some of the reserved diced dark green scallions and any of the listed suggestions.

Bon Appetit!

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