I had leftover napa cabbage and bean sprout (from Shanghai Style Stir-Fried Rice Cake) in the fridge, and I wanted to make a hot soup to go with the Sichuan Cold Noodle. Taiwanese Vegetable Thick Soup was the result. Traditionally thick soup is made with pork or/and squid wrapped in fish paste. This vegetarian/vegan version is easy… just leave out the meat.
One of the very important Asian ingredients in this recipe is black vinegar (which I already talked about in the Sichuan Cold Noodle post). The other Asian ingredients are:
1. White Pepper (白胡椒粉)
White pepper tastes different than black pepper. It actually doesn’t taste as peppery as black pepper, but it adds heat. Think of Chinese hot and sour soup. The “hot” in the soup comes from white pepper. You can substitute with black pepper of course, but the flavor of the soup will be slightly different.
2. Shitake Mushroom (香菇)
Shitake mushroom is very common in Asian recipe. The mushroom has an earthy and woody taste. You can use fresh shitake mushroom. Most Asian households always have dried shitake mushroom in their pantry. I bought my dry shitake mushroom slices at Costco. They store well. I just have to soak them in hot water for 10 minutes, and they are ready to be added to any dish.
3. Potato Starch (太白粉)
Starch is widely used in Asian recipe to thicken sauces or soups. The starch we find in Asian markets are usually made of potato. But you can also use corn starch.
Ready to cook?
Taiwanese Vegetable Thick Soup (素羹湯)
10 cups water
1 cup dried shitake mushroom slices (or fresh shitake mushroom)
1/2 head napa cabbage, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 cup julienned bamboo shoot (from a can)
2 cups bean sprout
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons black vinegar
White pepper (can be substitute with black pepper)
3 tablespoons potato starch (or corn starch)
6 tablespoons water
Heat up 2 cups of water. When it boils, turn off the heat. Soak dried shitake mushroom in water for 10 minutes. (Omit this step if you use fresh shitake mushroom.)
Add 8 cups of water to a big pot. Add shitake mushroom and its soaking water to the pot. Heat the water until it boils.
Add cabbage, carrot and bamboo shoot. Cook until cabbage becomes soft, about 10 minutes.
Add bean sprout and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add soy sauce and black vinegar. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons potato starch (or corn starch) with 6 tablespoons water. Make sure all starch is dissolved.
Turn the heat to medium-low. Slowly add the starch water to the soup. The soup will thicken. If you would like to thicken the soup, just add more starch water. Remember the ration of starch to water is 1:2. Add a handful of cilantro.
Pour the soup into a bowl. You can add more cilantro and white pepper if you like. You can even add noodle or vermicelli to the soup to make it into a bowl of noodle soup.