Chao Chay Recipe (Vietnamese Vegetarian Rice Soup)
We just stored all the holiday decorations and a new celebration is already upon us. Tết, the Asian New year is coming up in two weeks! I haven't bought cherry blossom flowers yet or decorated the house with red, but I’ll get to it soon. The other thing is that at the beginning of the year (Lunar calendar), it is auspicious to eat vegetarian food (ăn chay) on the last day of the previous year and first day of New Year. I recently made a delicious cháo bò (beef rice porridge), and I’ve created a vegetarian version to serve to the family.
Rice porridge is a typical Asian comfort food. I made this dish with tofu, carrots, daikon radishes, beech mushrooms and peas. Not only is it vegetarian, but it's also very healthy, which fits my New Year's resolution perfectly. I'm still trying to shed the extra baby weight! I'm going to be sharing a few Asian vegetarian dishes for you to try over the next few days, so come back soon!
Yields: 8 servings1 (12-ounce) package medium-firm tofu, drained and diced
6 cups vegetable stock
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 (2-inch) chunk fresh ginger
2 carrots, trimmed and peeled
2 daikon radishes, trimmed and peeled
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups broken rice (see tips)
¼ cup jicama (optional), fried and diced
2 cups beech mushrooms, or button mushrooms
¼ cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1-½ teaspoons black pepper, freshly cracked
Prepping the ginger: Cut the ginger root. Peel it with a paring knife, thinly slice it, then cut into long matchsticks. Set aside.
Preparing the broth:
In a large pot, place the vegetable stock. Bring to a roaring boil. Add the carrots and daikon and lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes until softened. Add the jicama. Remove the carrots and daikon from the broth. Dice the vegetables and place them back in the broth. Check the seasoning. Season with salt (if necessary) and pepper. Adjust sweetness (if necessary) with rock sugar.
Note: The key to a successful outcome is to prepare the bowls individually (no more than 2 servings at a time).
Wash and rinse the broken rice thoroughly in several water baths. Unlike basmati rice, no soaking time is needed. Drain as much water as possible.
Heat the oil in a non-stick, medium saucepan. Add the onions. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the onions from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Transfer the onions to a plate, leaving about 1/3 the amount in the saucepan.
Add ½ cup rice to the saucepan. The oil should coat all the grains. Add 2 cups of boiling-hot vegetarian stock and stir occasionally. Immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook until the broth thickens like porridge. Add 4 ounces of tofu, beech mushrooms, 1 tablespoon peas and a few ginger matchsticks. Cook for 5 more minutes until the peas are ready. Finish with cilantro. Depending on the consistency you like, you could add more vegetable broth to thin out the soup. Adjust seasoning.
Sprinkle of freshly cracked pepper.
Serve immediately and call each person as the soup is ready.
Repeat the same procedure for the next servings.
Coating the individual grains of rice in oil prevents them from sticking to one another.
Daikon (củ cải trắng in Vietnamese) is an Asian radish that looks like a large white carrot. I use this root a lot for making broth. The carrots and daikons both give natural sweetness to the broth.
Cơm tấm is a Vietnamese specialty rice. It translates to "broken rice". My favorite brand is Ba Co Gai (Three Ladies). You can find it in most Asian stores.
You can find rock sugar in Asian stores. You could also use granulated sugar instead.
Jicama is a large, sweet, firm root vegetable (actually a cousin to the sweet potato) that is used in vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine to imitate juicy pork fat and pork skin (when fried). It's crunchy like an apple and filling like a potato. You can find it in most supermarket produce departments or any Vietnamese store; it's called củ sắn. The jicama adds crunch to the rice soup.
For the fried jicama: Peel and slice horizontally into ½-inch thick pieces. In a large pan, heat the oil and fry the jicama slices until golden brown. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut the pieces into small dice. Set aside.January 9, 2012.