I went to a local Thai restaurant not too long ago and they had the most amazing Vegetarian Hot and Sour soup. I’ve had Chinese Hot and Sour Soup before and thought it was “ok”. I have this crazy thing for lemongrass flavor, so Thai Hot and Sour stole away my heart. I had a bunch of leftover Thai ingredients from a dinner I made a few nights back and didn’t want all my yummy Asian produce to go to waste. And what better way to use a whole slew of leftover produce but a soup? Per my usual style, I browsed some recipes, then made up my own.
With the vegetables, you can pretty much use whatever you prefer. I listed what I used in my soup, but feel free to make it your own way. You really can’t go wrong with a soup like this, so get the ‘base’ down and then modify to your heart’s content!
I am entirely pleased with the outcome of my soup. It’s warm, comforting and, in my humble opinion, has a comforting authentic flavor. I’ve been taking 2nds and 3rds… “Just one more taste” ever since I ate it for dinner. I can’t wait to share it with the rest of my family who are going to taste my leftovers tomorrow.
Another great benefit is that it’s a very low fat and low calorie dish. I did my own nutritional calculations, so though I can’t guarantee they are 100% accurate, they’re pretty close and can at least give you a guideline (nutrition values are below, under the recipe).
A few things to note before you get started about the ethnic ingredients, especially if you’re not used to working with them…
- Thai Bird Chilies (aka “Thai Chilies” or “Birdeye Chilies”) usually come in red or green and are about 1 inch long. The number of chilies you use determines the “star” rating of heat. I used 3 and it was ‘medium’. I probably could have gone for 4. I like a little nose drip with my hot and sour soup. These chilies are very hot. In fact, you may want to wear gloves when chopping them. My left thumb was burning for hours after holding the chili to chop it with my right. I also scratched an itch on my cheek and had a red ‘burn’ for a few hours as well, no thanks to the chili juice. But don’t let this scare you. They are an essential flavor (aka – the “hot” in “hot and sour”) to this soup. Just proceed with caution.
- Fish Sauce is a staple flavor in most Thai dishes. There are some vegetarian options out there at specialty stores or you can make your own. In a pinch, you can use a bit of seaweed for that “sea” flavor, but I would use that as a last resort.
- Lemongrass. Do not eat the lemongrass. I don’t even want to tell you my story of when I tried to serve my husband (then boyfriend) lemongrass finely sliced in a salad. It was bad. It’s a flavoring. Don’t. Eat. The. Lemongrass. I’m sure you all know this already, but in the event you didn’t. I needed to at least let you learn from my bad experience and warn you. Strip the outside layers off, wash it well, then get the flavor out of it by using the flat side of a knife or a rolling pin and pound it a few times. Then, slice into 3″ pieces and throw it into the soup. I know there are ways to use the actual lemongrass in recipes but I haven’t figured that out yet.
Vegetarian Thai Hot and Sour Soup (Tom Yum)
Serves: 4-appetizer, 2-meal
- 1 t oil (I always use olive because that’s what I have closest to the stove)
- 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups vegetarian chickenless broth (or vegetable broth)
- 3 cups water
- 1 stock lemongrass, pounded and cut into 3″ pieces
- 14 oz whole tomatoes, drained (not rinsed), cut into large chunks (approx 1/2 a large can)
- 1 to 6 red or green Thai chilies, seeded and finely minced
- 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh peas
- 1/2 cup mushrooms (I recommend Shitake or Chinese black)
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
- 2/3 cup extra firm tofu, cubes
- Any additional vegetables of your choosing, such as red bell pepper, bamboo shoots, broccoli, etc. (I would have used these if I had some on hand)
- 2 Tbsp vegetarian fish sauce (you can buy or make your own. Fish sauce is a “staple” flavor’
- Juice from 2 limes
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 3-4 lime leaves (optional)
- 1 t Basil, minced, plus additional for garnish (optional)
- 1 t Cilantro, minced, plus additional for garnish (optional)
- Bean sprouts for garnish (optional)
- Prepare all your ingredients by chopping, dicing, mincing, etc. Pound the lemongrass with a rolling pin or the flat side of a knife.
- Heat the oil in a medium/large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook stirring occasionally until translucent.
- Add broth, water, lemongrass, lime leaves (if you have it) and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Let boil 15-20 mins.
- Add chilies, carrots and peas. Bring back to a boil and let simmer at a low boil for another 10 minutes
- Add mushrooms, tofu, green onions, vegetarian fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, basil and cilantro. Bring back to a boil and let boil approx 5 mins. If there doesn’t appear to be enough broth, add 1/2 cup of water at a time bringing it back to a boil before serving.
- Serve being mindful to not serve the lemongrass or lime leaves Garnish with bean sprouts and additional basil and cilantro before presenting.
Nutrition for 1/4 the recipe, when making it as an appetizer for 4:
140 calories, 4g fat, 20g carbs, 8g protein, 4g fiber