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Comforting Hot and Sour Soup (Vegan-, Oil-, Wheat- and Gluten-Free)

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I have had many variations on this comforting vegetable soup, each one a winner, with the common theme being vegetables in a kudzu or arrowroot-thickened clear broth. I find this type of soup a welcome respite, a warm and soothing combination of vegetables and thickened broth packed with powerful nutrients, without a ton of fat calories.

One delightful version that I've had is a Thai soup made with a few vegetables and a very spicy broth. It's called Tom Yum Gu. Another less-spicy one is a Japanese rendition that I've eaten many times at Souen, a wonderful macrobiotic restaurant in New York City.

This morning, on the Good Day Maine show, I made my own "milder take" of the soup. It's so easy to make because you can cut up the veggies way ahead of time -- or even just use leftover vegetables to add to this quick broth.

The soup is also a great way to up your vegetable portions and get the recommended amount of daily fiber (for women 21 to 25 grams, men 30 to 38 grams). Fiber is essential to help the body eliminate excess estrogens. The liver filters estrogens from the blood and then sends them to the intestines through the bile duct. The fiber in our intestines acts like a sponge, soaking up the excess estrogens and eliminating them from the body. Adding a bowl of quick-cooking quinoa or brown rice also ups the fiber content, adding a whole grain and making it a hearty and satisfyingly-filling meal!

I've added some tofu in this version (for good measure). The tofu adds more protein, making this soup and brown rice a complete meal without adding a lot of extra fat calories, giving you plenty of nutrients and fiber, instead.

On my way home today, I ran into a friend who asked about the recipe, because she was craving "hot and sour" soup, which, in turn, inspired me to add the option of the hot and sour here, as well.

Enjoy!

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Hot and Sour Soup With Kuzu Vegetables and Tofu
4+ cups of water
1 postage stamp size piece of kombu (a type of Maine seaweed)
1/8 cup of slivered dried shiitake mushrooms (I use Oyster Creek from Damariscotta)
4 Tablespoons kuzu
1 Tablespoon tamari wheat-free soy sauce
7 ounces (1/2 block) of tofu
2 teaspoons mirin (a Japanese cooking wine)
4 cups of fresh or leftover vegetables -- I used carrots (sliced), cabbage (cubed), burdock root (sliced), and red onion (wedges)

Optional: To make this into a hot and sour Kuzu Vegetable and Tofu Soup, add the following:
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (I used Crazy Dick's Cajun Spice)
1 Tablespoon brown rice vinegar or 1 teaspoon ume vinegar

For vegetables: Cut all vegetables about the same size, place into a pot in sections, add 1/4 cup of water and steam for 15 minutes.

While vegetables are steaming, in another pot (stock pot) add water, the piece of kombu seaweed and the dried shiitake mushrooms, bring to a boil and simmer as long as vegetables are cooking. Half way through the cooking add the cubed tofu and continue to simmer.

Fill a 1 cup measuring cup with 1/2 cup of cold water, add the kuzu, stir to dilute kuzu so that no lumps remain. Add to mushroom broth and stir well. Let it simmer until thickened for about three minutes. Add cooked vegetables. There won't be much water left, but if there is add that, too. more hot water can be added and stirred in if the soup is too thick.

If you want to make the hot and sour version of this, add the chili power and cook a few more minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Do you like vegetables, or vegetable soups? What's your favorite? Would you consider trying this one? Why or why not? Please leave your comments here in the comments section of this article.

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