Living in San Francisco, I feel lucky for having many vegan options when dining out. One of these options is my favorite soup called “Braised Pea Leaves” with pumpkin, pressed tofu, and salted chili broth served at a restaurant called Mission Chinese.
Mission Chinese is a quaint restaurant in the Mission district. Some people frown upon this place, calling it too “hipster” because of its quirky decor and pricey menu items. But I didn’t mind the decor nor the price of the soup. I was more than willing to pay its deserving price for a bowl of its nourishing and delicious soup, with a side of white rice. I don’t mind who dines in there and whether I am indeed among the presence of “hipsters”. I simply enjoy the soup.
But I crave the soup too much that I just had to recreate it so I could have it any time, anywhere. Well, anywhere that has a kitchen. My version is not an exact replication but a personal rendition, an interpretation that has become my new favorite. I’ve added other ingredients such as enoki mushrooms and used a variation of Asian Greens -sometimes snow pea leaves, sometimes yu choy, and sometimes even kale. Basically any greens that have sweet stalk and tender leaves. I don’t braise them, I would just add them to the pot as one of the last steps. I also like to use regular, firm tofu instead of pressed, chewy tofu.
As for the seasoning, I kept the roasted garlic, chili pepper, and sesame oil. I think Mission Chinese uses mushroom broth so that’s what I use too. Anyway, I am completely satisfied and happy with my version that I am excited to share it with you. I think you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not only delicious, it’s easy and quick to cook too.
ASIAN GREENS SOUP WITH SQUASH, TOFU, AND ENOKI MUSHROOMS
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 3-4 quarts water
- mushroom broth to taste (see note below)
- 1/4 of small kabocha squash, thinly sliced with skin intact
- 4-6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 2-3 Thai chili pepper, minced (see note below)
- drizzle of sesame oil
- pinch of salt
- a bunch of Asian greens (see note below)
- a bunch of Enoki mushrooms, roots cut and removed
- a block of firm tofu, thinly sliced
- 3-5 tablespoons of cooking oil to fry the tofu
- Every brand of mushroom broth is different. They vary in form and strength. Start small and gradually add more until you’ve achieved your desired amount of savoriness. I like to use the brand “Po Lo Ku Mushroom Seasoning” that I got at my local Asian grocery store. I start with about three tablespoons, adding more to taste.
- I like my soup mildly spicy. You may use more chili pepper if you want more kick. You may use chili oil or sambal olek in addition to or in replacement for the chili pepper. If you don’t want it to be spicy at all, you may de-seed the pepper before adding to the pot or skip them altogether.
- You may use any greens that have firm, sweet stalk and tender leaves. Ideally, I like to use snow pea leaves but I’ve also used yu choy, sometimes even kale.
- While you’re waiting for your soup to simmer and cook, you could also fry the tofu on another pan to cut down your cooking time.
- Growing up, I was always told to remove the skin off the kabocha squash before cooking it. As it turns out, the skin is also edible! So feel free to keep the skin intact; it doesn’t have any prominent flavor and it does give nutritious fiber.
- Add water to a medium-size pot and heat it over medium heat.
- Pour the mushroom broth and a pinch of salt and mix to fully incorporate. Cover and put to simmer for 5-6 minutes.
- While you’re waiting for your broth to simmer, put the garlic cloves a the toaster oven and toast for 5 minutes or until they have brown and black toasted spots.
- During this time, you could also fry your tofu on a separate pan, preferably next to your soup so you could watch both.
- Once your soup is simmering, add kabocha squash and let it cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the squash has slightly softened.
- Adjust the seasoning to taste. You may add more mushroom broth, salt, or water. Then drizzle some sesame oil.
- Put the broth to a boil and turn down the heat to a low simmer. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and greens. Cover the pot with lid and let the greens and mushroom absorb the flavors for another 3 minutes. You may finish up frying your tofu at this time.
- Lastly, add the fried tofu to the pot.
- Turn off the heat and serve the soup hot, preferably with a side of rice (or farro for a no-sugar option).
This soup is my go-to when I run out of time to cook and have only 20 minutes to spare and few ingredients to use. It’s extremely simple, versatile, and delicious. Even though the weather is warming up in San Francisco, it’s never a bad time for some Asian greens soup with a mild kick. Feel free to try it and share with family and friends. This soup is best enjoyed when shared. Thanks to Mission Chinese Restaurant for the inspiration!
I submitted this recipe to the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.