Tofu and Mushroom Soup - The Thai Style Version

Before this post embarks on any controversy, let me give the following disclaimer:

I  make no such claim that this soup is authentic Thai. It does contain Coconut Milk but no curry paste. Sid had one sip of it and said it tastes a lot like the soup we get in Sukhothai, our most loved Thai restaurant in Cincinnati. Since then, I call it Thai Style Tofu and Mushroom Soup!

This gorgeous soup came together as a result of a fridge raid operation. My fridge looks pretty desolate on Fridays. Putting together a decent lunch is a challenge. Scrambled Egg Quesadilla is pretty much our go-to lunch situation on most Fridays.  But not today, as I am out on cheese and really low on eggs.

Now, if you want to put food in front of Sid, that he wont sniff, give dubious look and ask you a zillion question, Tofu is the way to go. The lad doesn't seem to get enough of it. Pair it with his another favorite, also known as Mushrooms, and you suddenly become the best Mommy in the world!

Sid has forever loved Mushrooms. Recently, he came to know, that mushroom is not really a vegetable, but actually a fungus, a special type of living organism that has no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds. The news did not bother him much. Only, now he refers to mushrooms as "Fungus". He digs his fork in a mushroom and says "Ahh Fungus! I love eating you", before chowing it down. And that, kind of creeps me out.

I have used Shiitake and Crimini Mushrooms, because it was all I had. I actually wanted to use just Shiitake, but did not have enough, so I added the Crimini ones just to bulk up. But using two different kind of mushrooms really brought a nice flavor and texture to this soup.

I love Shiitake mushrooms. They is so intensely rich, smoky and meaty. However, while researching for this post, I came to know about its amazing health benefits too. Read the "Diabetic Platter" section to know more about it.

Kaffir lime leaves is another aromatic, I love using. The lime-n-lemony aroma takes a simple curry to a whole new level. Since, the soup was a "fridge-raid" operation and not a planned recipe, I did not have any kaffir lime leaves. The zest of  a lime worked pretty well actually. Agreed, it was nowhere near the exotic flavors of a kaffir lime leaf but it was definitely worth than having nothing.

Thai Basil is definitely not a pantry staple for me, but strangely I had it on me. Maybe because I made a certain Thai Fish Curry earlier this week for a potluck! Thai Basil is so different from its Italian counterpart. Its has a spicy, anise-like flavor (almost like the spice, Star Anise) and is perfect for this soup. But I think some fresh cilantro would have worked well too.

Currently, coconut milk is a raging fad in the US. Though it is high in saturated fat, it still boasts of a huge array of nutrients. Consumed in moderation, it is actually good for you. I do not have much recipes in my repertoire that require coconut milk and hence, use it sparingly. But it is amazingly delicious and a handy thing to have in your pantry. Just a touch of this vegan creaminess makes your ordinary meals fancy and gourmet.

This soup is a perfect first course for a dinner. Its light and flavorful. To make it into a meal, just add a cup or two of your favorite boiled noodles. We love Buckwheat (Soba) noodles at our house. It had a very distinct nutty flavor and we use it a lot in stir-fries and noodle soups. The fact they have Glycemic Index, helps my cause too.

Here is a snapshot of the recipe.

Recipe Snapshot: Tofu and Mushroom Soup -  The Thai Style Version

Serves: 4 serving
(1 serving = 3/4 cup)

What I used:
Extra Firm Tofu - 1 (14 oz) pack, drained well and cut into cubes

Crimini Mushrooms  -  1 (8 oz) pack, cleaned and sliced

Shiitake Mushrooms - 1 (5 oz) pack, stemmed, washed and sliced

Ginger - 1 small knob, finely minced

Garlic - 2 fat cloves, finely minces

Red Chili Flakes - 1 tsp (optional)

Green Onion - 2, thinly sliced (only the white and light green part. The dark green past can be used as garnish)

Soy Sauce - 1 tsp

Vegetable (or Chicken) Stock - 4 cups

Coconut Milk - 1 cup

Kaffir Lime Leaves - 2 
(Zest of one big lime would be a close substitute)

Thai basil  - a small handful, finely chopped (Cilantro can be used in a pinch)

Lime juice - 1 tsp, per serving

Oil  - 2 tbsp + 1 tbsp

Salt and Pepper

What I did:
1. Drain the water from the tofu and dry it with kitchen towel. Cut it into cubes.

2. Heat a wide pan, preferably nonstick, over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil and pan sear the tofu cubes on all sides, till light golden in color. Keep aside.

3. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in a big saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced ginger and garlic and fry till is fragrant. If you prefer heat, add the red chili flakes at this point . Keep stirring continuously because we don't want to burn the aromatics.

4. Add the mushrooms and the green onions (white and light green parts) and saute till the mushrooms softens a bit. 

5. Add the soy sauce, kaffir lime leaves (or the lime zest) and chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Do a taste check and add salt and pepper as per your taste. 

6. Once the stock comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat and add the coconut milk and Thai basil.

7. Add the fried tofu pieces and let it simmer in the soup for couple of more minutes. 

8. Serve with a garnish of green onion (dark green parts) and more Thai Basil and a generous squeeze of lime juice. 

1. I am lucky that I get fresh Shiitake mushrooms at my farmers market. But if it is unavailable, you can use dries one, which are readily available at any Asian market. Just reconstitute them in warm water and proceed with the recipe. Do not throw away the water. Use it, along with the stock to get maximum flavor.

2. Kaffir Lime Leaves had a distinctive lime-lemon aroma that is integral part of this recipe. I get my stash from my local South Asian market. But it is not always available in stock. In that case zest of a large lime will suffice. The result wont be as aromatic, but it will be better than nothing!

3. The same thing goes for Thai Basil. The favor is slightly spice and very anise like. And it is very difficult to substitute. I would not recommend sweet Italian basil as the flavors are very different and not complementary . In case you do not have Thai Basil, use Coriander Leaves / Cilantro. The flavors will be different but equally good. 

4. Add a cup of boiled noodles to the soup and it will become a complete meal. I love using buckwheat (Soba) noodles with this soup. 

5. I have just used mushrooms in this recipe, but veggies like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage are wonderful additions to this fragrant and flavorful soup.

Diabetic Platter:
Shiitake Mushrooms: Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms are widely referred to as "medicinal mushrooms" due to their long history of medical use, particularly in oriental medicine traditions. shiitake mushrooms are rich in B vitamins—they are an excellent of pantothenic acid, a very good source of vitamin B2, and a good source of vitamin B6, niacin, choline, and folate. Additionally, they are concentrated in minerals, being an excellent source of selenium and copper, a very good source of zinc, and a good source of manganese. They are also a good source of vitamin D (in the D2 form) and dietary fiber. They also provide a wide variety of unique phytonutrients and is a proven  anti-cancer benefits. 
Read more:

Crimini Mushrooms:  People do not usually consider mushrooms, including crimini mushrooms, as a part of their meals that can offer great nutritional value. However, the nutritional value of crimini mushrooms may surprise you. One cup of crimini mushrooms provides a good, very good, or excellent source of 15 different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant phytonutrients. 
Read more:

Tofu: Despite brimming with nutrients, in recent years, soy products has been under a lot of fire and rightfully so. The vast majority of soy consumed in the U.S. comes from a highly processed form of soy. The soybeans we consume have usually been genetically engineered, cracked, dehulled, crushed, and subjected to solvent extraction to separate their oils from the rest of the bean. What's left behind after oil extraction (defatted soy flour) is then further processed into animal feed, or processed to produce a protein concentrate or a protein isolate. The isolate can be used as an ingredient in low-fat soymilk, and the concentrate can be further processed (extruded) to form a textured soy protein for use in meat analog products (like soy burgers). Tofu is produced with significantly less processing than most low-fat soymilks and soy burgers, it is a soy food that is much closer to a "whole foods" category than soy protein isolates and concentrates. 

While there is existing research that indicates the possibility of certain health risks from consumption of soy, we believe that a significant amount of these possible health risks involve consumption of soy in a highly processed form (like soy protein isolate or soy protein concentrate) rather than a whole food form. By contrast, we view tofu as a form of soy that is closer to soy in its whole food form.

From a health benefits standpoint, there are also benefits to tofu that has been fermented. Fermentation increases the digestibility of soy (especially its proteins), nutrient absorption from soy (including absorption of phytonutrient isoflavones like genistein and daidzein), and the concentration of bioactive peptides (formed during the breakdown of soy proteins during fermentation).
Read more:


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