This beautiful tofu soup is a great comforting pick-me-up and, although we make it with ingredients often found in a Chinese shop you can also substitute in things found in your local supermarket.
Even as a child I loved Asian flavours, especially Chinese ones. When, as a teenager, I first started cooking many of the ingredients I needed to make the dishes I love weren’t available in supermarkets or the local shop. Thus I set out to discover everything I could about our closest tiny Chinese shop- which was quite an adventure because no labels were written in English! At the time I was also struggling with my dietary issues and delighted in finding things like seaweed crisps and konjac noodles (noodles made from a vegetable grown in south east Asia). Suddenly there were so many snack foods that I could safely cart around- a big problem as anyone on a low carb diet knows!
And then I met my wife, who is half-Chinese Malay, and was introduced to many more authentic flavours… and correct cooking methods… because my previous attempts to follow badly-translated Chinese instructions on the back of packets weren’t always wonderful. We’ll just say that my parents started refusing to try my experiments and leave it at that.
This soup uses some of my favourite things from our local Chinese shop and it’s a fab way of using up vegetables that need eating! Although from the picture below it seems as if there are many ingredients please be assured that it’s a very easy recipe. Check the notes section at the bottom of the page for tips on how to change the recipe to make it supermarket friendly but keep the Chinese flavours.
(I included mooli in the video above because it was massive and I couldn’t resist but it’s not normally a part of the recipe)
1 tbsp sesame oil
350g chopped carrots
400g pak choi
200g oyster mushrooms
2 ltrs water
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
60 ml gluten free soy sauce (also called tamari)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
handful dried black fungus mushrooms
1 bunch spring onions (green part only)
rice noodles for 6 people
1 packet pre-baked tofu
2 century eggs
1 tsp chilli oil
1 sheet fried/baked seaweed
- Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pot. Add the diced carrots and pak choi stems (setting the leave to the side for later). Brown for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the water, soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce and ginger then salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in dried black fungus. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 mins.
- Stir in chopped pak choi leaves, spring onions and oyster mushrooms. Simmer until the leaves are wilted- 6 or 7 minutes.
- Make the noodles to the directions on the packet (or if they’re fresh just pop them into the soup!)
- Add the baked tofu and allow to simmer until it’s heated through.
- Serve into bowls over the noodles.
- Top with century eggs, chilli oil and torn sheet of seaweed. Also add a slice of lime if you feel like it!
Don’t be frightened if you’ve never seen some of these ingredients before and aren’t sure where to get them. Although there are many Chinese online supermarkets (Wai Yee Hong and Oriental Mart are both UK based and deliver across the country) that might not be your preferred option so here are some substitutions:
Vegetables: As mentioned above, although mooli appears in the video it isn’t normally part of this recipe so don’t worry about finding that! Pak choi and carrots are supermarket staples but if you find any other leafy asian vegetables in the local shop this soup is a great way to try them!
Mushrooms: Black fungus is not for everyone, that I very much understand! It’s look is a little off putting and the texture is… slightly like a jellied shoe leather… but it tastes amazing! I may have put you off even further with that texture description but I actually quite enjoy it so please do try it. And if you really can’t stand it then just use the oyster mushrooms or any other ‘exotic’ mushrooms you happen upon in your local supermarket.
Sauces: Sesame oil and soy sauce- even gluten free versions- can be found in supermarkets but rice vinegar and fish sauce might be a little harder for you to get your hands on, depending on where you shop. For the vinegar you can substitute lime juice or even a little white vinegar (but use a little less than written above). If I can’t get my hands on fish sauce I use a seaweed sprinkle that you can learn more about in my coleslaw video. It would also take well to other seaweed sheets that could be torn up and added to the pot.
Tofu: Annoyingly whilst many supermarkets sell tofu nowadays they don’t tend to carry the fried or baked version that you’ll need for this recipe. You can make your own with firm or extra-firm tofu by marinading in soy sauce and baking for around 30mins at 200 degrees C. Another option would be using fried Quorn pieces or if you’re not vegetarian you could always throw some smoked mackerel in towards the end or prawns if you want to keep things light.
Eggs: You could make your own century eggs but it involves caustic soda, clay and at least a month so… don’t. Don’t do that. Just boil some regular chicken eggs (or duck if you’re feeling fancy) to a medium hardness.
This recipe is vegan if you don’t add the fish sauce and the century eggs!