Green Kitchen: Hot and Sour Soup with Baby Bok Choy

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

After three years of farmers market shopping, I still don’t have a great handle on when fresh vegetables start showing up. I've got a history with this seasonal amnesia, too: when I was little, I would be surprised every year when it was cold at Halloween. I got that one to stick, just in time to outgrow trick-or-treating, but then I spent years expecting trees to have leaves by mid-March.

And now, for the last few weeks, I've gone to the farmers market with no idea whether I'd find bountiful produce, or just more of last year's apples.

For several spring weeks, it's still been those dang apples (okay, and asparagus), but this past weekend I was finally met by a variety of veggies at the market. Following the rules of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle, it's mostly leafy greens – baby spinach, broccoli rabe, incredibly abundant bunches of stinging nettles. (I may be desperate for inexpensive fresh veggies, but I'm not ready for greens that can hurt me.) Maybe prettiest of all: a few big bins of light green, lovely baby bok choy.

They had the same oval leaves as grown-up bok choy, but rather than merging at a thick white bulby stem, they were gently joined at their bases, and just an inch or two tall.

So, a plan started to form in my mind.

The boyfriend and I had talked about maybe ordering in soup that night, and what is one of the most basic rules of eating cheaply, healthily, and kindly-to-the-environment? Make it yourself! I remembered a recipe with vinegar-spiked stock and lots of mushrooms and ginger, with room for the addition of just about any vegetable. Enter baby bok choy.

To refine it, I hit the internet and read through several additional hot and sour soup iterations. Some called for exotic dried mushrooms from a Chinese market; some called for supermarket mushrooms. Ultimately, I went with a one that saved me the hour-long trip to Chinatown. I also replaced sriracha with hot pepper flakes. After a few more tweaks, we had soup! And ohmygoodness, was it good!

I think the magic was this: inspired by Ask the Internet: Best Cooking Fat?, I sautéed the mushrooms and ginger in coconut oil on low heat. The soup doesn’t taste like coconut, but there’s a richness in flavor that belies how very low-calorie this is. It’s also kind of astonishingly filling.

If you're not a vegetarian, add some pre-cooked meat after sautéing the mushrooms, and cook that for a few minutes before adding the stock. Make it hotter or not, more or less sour, however you like your soup. (And might I recommend enjoying your leftovers with a poached egg? Kind of amazing.)


If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy:

Hot and Sour Soup with Baby Bok Choy
Adapted from Serious Eats and All Recipes.
Serves 6

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 10-ounce package crimini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
A few shakes of hot pepper flakes (or more or less to taste)
6 cups broth (I used Better Than Bouillon)
2 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs
1 package tofu, pressed, cut into cubes (I would recommend against extra-firm)
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
4 cups baby bok choy (or other greens)
6 scallions, chopped

1) Put a soup pot (4qt or more) over medium heat. Melt coconut oil. Add mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and hot pepper flakes. Sauté until the mushrooms are soft and have given up their liquid.

2) Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and black pepper. Set aside.

3) Once mushrooms are cooked, add broth and water. Add soy sauce and vinegar mixture. Taste, and add more pepper flakes, vinegar, or soy sauce, to your taste.

4) Bring soup to boil. Whisk the eggs together in a measuring cup. While stirring the soup, pour in the eggs in a slow stream.

5) Reduce heat to a simmer. Add bamboo shoots, tofu, and bok choy. Simmer for five minutes.

6) Serve topped with scallions. Try not to burn your mouth.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
133 calories, 7.8g fat, 2.2g fiber, 11.3g protein, $1.69

1 T coconut oil: 117 calories, 13.6g fat, 0g fiber 0g protein, $0.40
1 10oz package crimini (or baby bella) mushrooms: 42 calories, 0g fat, 1.9g fiber, 6g protein $2.99
2 T minced ginger: 3 calories, negligible fat, fiber, protein, $0.16
2 cloves garlic: 9 calories, negligible fat, fiber, .5g protein $0.04
a few shakes of hot pepper flakes: negliglible calories, fat, fiber, protein $0.02
6 c broth (I used Better Than Bouillon): 30 calories, negligible fat, fiber, protein, $1.11
2 c water: nothing!
2 T soy sauce: 22 calories, negligible fat, fiber, 3.8g protein $0.21
2 T rice vinegar: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $0.16
1 t sugar: 16 calories, negligible fat, fiber, protein $0.02
1 t black pepper: negliglible calories, fat, fiber, protein $0.01
2 eggs: 155 calories, 10.6g fat, 0g fiber, 12.6g protein $0.66
1 package tofu: 365 calories, 22g fat, 5.8g fiber, 39.8g protein $1.79
1 can bamboo shoots: 25 calories, .5g fat, 1.8g fiber, 2.3g protein $1.19
4 c baby bok choy: 27 calories, 0g fat, 2.5g fiber, 2.5g protein $1.25
6 scallions: 11 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, .5g protein $0.11
TOTALS: 797 calories, 46.7g fat, 13g fiber, 68g protein, $10.12
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 133 calories, 7.8g fat, 2.2g fiber, 11.3g protein, $1.69