Grad Student Eating in Style: Vegan Hot and Sour Soup

Nov 30 2011 Published by under Grad Student Eating in Style!

Sci recently got a slow cooker (aka a crockpot, aka whatever else you call those things). I've been wanting one for ages, it seems like a fabulous way to eat cheap and healthy, not to mention one that is suitable for the academic lifestyle (chuck stuff in the pot, go to lab for 8 hours, and then you HAVE to go home because you left the crockpot on! Not only that, it makes LARGE quantities that a hungry grad student/postdoc can eat off of for a week. Wins all around).

And the first thing I wanted to try? Hot and sour soup. I LOVE hot and sour soup in a way that's almost frightening. It brings back fond memories for me, and is wonderful for chasing away the cold of winter nights. This version is vegan (because I found it in a vegetarian/vegan slow cooker book, is why), and reminds me oh so much of fond memories as a kid. I recommend adding more chili paste than listed if you're used to the real stuff.

You will need:

1/3 cup dried shitake mushrooms
4 oz seitan, cut into thin slivers (seitan is a meat substitute and tastes super good)
6 oz can bamboo shoots, cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
4 cups vegetable stock (I use boullion cubes, tastes just fine)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian chile paste (this is the red stuff in the jar with the rooster on the front. Has a green lid. Be careful because you will start putting it on everything once you realize how great it is)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons minced scallions (this is like 1.5 scallions at most)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Soak the dried mushrooms for 20 minutes in hot water to soften them. Drain, cut into thin strips, and add to your slow cooker (this uses 4 quart, mine is a 6 quart and I double the recipe without a problem). Add seitan, bamboo, garlic, ginger, stock, vinegar, soy sauce, and chile paste. Season with the salt and pepper (I do a decent sprinkle of each), and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in your peas, scallion, and sesame oil.

I like to serve mine with a side of brown rice. It's pungent (your apartment will smell GREAT) and the kind of thing that makes you feel like you can COOK!!

I will say: this recipe isn't cheap. It is, however, DELICIOUS, and the food news is that once you've bought things like the chile paste and sesame oil and ginger (though ginger is awfully cheap), you can go a while. The most expensive part is the shitake mushrooms and the seitan. The mushrooms...I'd go to an Asian grocery store for the best price on dried. For the seitan, no helping it, but you can sub in tofu if you like, which is cheaper. The "real" hot and sour soup uses pork.

8 responses so far

  • That sounds amazing! And you just reminded me that I still haven't replaced my slow cooker since moving countries...

  • fizzchick says:

    Seitan is a bit time-consuming but not at all difficult or expensive to make - look for a box/bag of wheat gluten in the baking aisle (often next to the rye flour and other exotic flours - Bob's Red Mill makes some, but there are other brands) and read the recipe on the side, or look online. Basically it's gluten plus whatever herbs/spices you want, mixed ~1:1 with water, and simmered for an hour in water/broth/water+soy sauce+molasses. Saute as usual for stirfry, or add to soup as above. 1-1.5 c. gluten, which is maybe a quarter of a bag/box, feeds me and my husband 2 meals plus leftovers, so probably 6-8 servings? and costs only $1 or so. Keeps fine in the fridge for several days if you make a big batch, and you can freeze it if you'd rather.

  • biochembelle says:

    I actually have never been able to find seitan in the supermarket (though maybe if I checked at Whole Paycheck, but they're inconveniently located). There's a vegan fast food truck in town, and the spousal unit loves their BBQ seitan sandwich. I might have to try my hand at making seitan for some hot & sour soup! Yum!!

  • fusilier says:

    It's long out-of-print, but see if you can find a copy of "The Food Stamp Gourmet," by John Brown. Lots of good, cheap stuff like moussaka, osso bucco, and so forth.

    (I'd suggest asking the Old Curmudgeon prof getting ready to retire, if you can borrow her/his copy. It's that old.)

    fusilier, who's lent his copy out any number of times
    James 2:24

  • Andy says:

    As a vegan graduate student who also recently got a slow cooker and who also recently tried this very recipe, I can wholeheartedly endorse this blog post.

  • bsci says:

    I might need to try this recipe.
    A cool history of the hot sauce was written a couple of years ago:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/dining/20united.html?pagewanted=all

  • YUM!! Will be giving this a try on my "fuck it, I'm not cooking" cooking day next week.

  • GregB says:

    I made this yesterday and it was a hit with the whole family. I added 2 bundles of Udon noodles 15 minutes before serving. Also, I made ours with turkey stock I made from the carcass of our Thanksgiving turkey. I love having frozen stock easily at hand.

    Also, I used real pork for my protein. I just sliced it thinly and lightly browned it in my soup kettle (as opposed to a crock pot).

    OK, I guess I changed a lot of things. But the basic recipe was still there.

    I was surprised at how much flavor we had from so few ingredients. The sesame oil is really strong. You get a lot of flavor for a small amount. And yes, the green topped rooster chili sauce is wonderful. I also found that it could use just a bit more seasoning so I added a little more soy sauce at the end (which is essentially salt) and that really helped.

    Great recipe! I'm adding it to my rotation.