this soup was a delicious penance for our octoberfest sins (why on earth did we have the potato pancakes, sweet pretzel, fried jalapenos, fried pickles, and the fried cheesecake???). it's light, but hale, and very very healthy. the only oil to speak of is a spritz for sauteing onions and the drizzle of sesame oil. the evening we dined, it was accompanied by a crispie treat appetizer, and was perfectly satisfying. the next day for lunch, it pared well with buckwheat soba, dipped to moisten, just before eating. the recipe calls for a cilantro garnish, but as a fairly recent cilantro-convert, it was a little powerful (read: soapy) for my palate. another lead could come from the pho playbook, with basil instead. or a little japanese shiso, if it's handy.
we assumed by "4 heads bok choi," it meant baby bok choi. so instead we purchased the equivalent in mature bok choi. the asian lady sorting through the same assortment of greens asked about our plans for it. when I answered, simply, "soup," she nodded approvingly. don't be tempted to sub out the rest of the napa in place of bok choi, as the textural variation is subtly, delicately imperative.
in fact, the greatest challenge of the entire affair is deciding on a purpose for the other 3/4 heads of cauliflower and napa. consider asking your grocer/farmer about splitting a head. do not attempt adding the additional 3/4 cabbage unless you're actually feeding an army. a healthy army. or a penitent one.
chinese shitake cabbage soup
adapted from central market recipe card
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 qt chicken or veggie broth
1/4 head cauliflower, split into florets
4 heads bok choi, chopped
1/4 head napa cabbage, chopped
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted (reserve juice)
1 lobe ginger, peeled (with a spoon) and crushed with flat side of knife
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped
heat broth while sauteing sweet onions until soft. add onions, reconstituted mushrooms and crushed ginger to broth and let simmer for 20-30 min. add soy sauce and sugar, taste, then season with salt, pepper and sesame oil.
add cauliflower and cabbage, cook 5-10 minutes, until tender. serve hot, garnished with scallion and a little cilantro, basil or shiso.
extract ginger from leftovers before chilling, as the flavor becomes much spicier the longer it steeps.