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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

My quickest Chinese Vegetable Soup – very low calorie!


This Chinese Vegetable Soup is my current favourite got-no-time dinner when I’m trying to “be healthy” but still want something downright tasty. Clocking in at an extremely low 108 calories per serving, you’ll have this low-carb wonder on the table in under 15 minutes, including measuring out and chopping ingredients!

(PS If you need carbs though – I get it – here’s the Noodle Soup version here and the Rice Soup version here!)

Chinese vegetable soup ready to eat

The quickest Chinese vegetable soup

Readers sometimes call me out on my recipe cook times and I’m the first to bashfully admit that I can be a little…err….optimistic, shall we say! 😇 Today’s, however, is truly a 15 minute recipe from start to finish – and that factors in 5 minutes for the broth to come to a simmer.

I love how streamlined the workflow is for this recipe which has high appeal factor on particularly crazy days. We all have those, don’t we! You’ll be measuring soy sauce straight into the pot while the broth is heating up, chopping vegetables while the broth is simmering, and putting out bowls and spoons while the vegetables braise.

Wish more recipes were this efficient!

The soup broth is my master Chinese soup broth that is made with Asian pantry staples, flavoured with soy sauce and infused with garlic and ginger. It is the same I use for my classic Chinese noodle soup and rice soup.

I like to use enoki mushrooms because of their noodle-like-shape so I don’t feel cheated by the absence of noodles!

As for the stuff (veg!) that goes in the soup, this is truly one of those versatile recipes you can make with any cook-able vegetables you have. Chinese broccoli (Gai lan), enoki mushrooms and carrot is my default (see ingredients section below for why).

I specifically like to use enoki mushrooms because I think of them as healthy faux noodles, so I trick myself into not feeling deprived by the absence of a big wad of noodles in this soup!

TIP: Buy enoki mushrooms at Asian stores, they are way, way cheaper than at regular grocery stores.

Eating Chinese vegetable soup
Healthy faux noodles – enoki mushrooms!

Ingredients

The most important take-aways from this section is that you can use any cook-able vegetables and you can use as much as you can cram into the pot! I’ve listed some of my favourite vegetable combinations below.

1. The Asian infused broth

Here’s what you need for the broth. As mentioned above, it is my master soy-based Chinese soup broth. The one thing I do differently in this recipe is to add a star anise into the broth, just to add a hint of extra flavour.

  • Chinese cooking wine – the key ingredient! Just 1.5 tablespoons adds complexity and depth of flavour to the store bought chicken stock/broth. Without it, the soup broth will taste “flat” ie missing something.

    Substitute with: dry sherry, mirin or cooking sake. Best non alcoholic substitute for this recipe: substituting some of the soy sauce with oyster sauce (which adds extra “umami” into the broth to compensate).

  • Garlic and ginger – Slice the garlic in half and slice the ginger into rounds to allow the fresh flavours to infuse into the broth. Keeping them whole makes it easy to pick out later – you could very well grate them straight into the broth using a fine grater, but you will get little bits in the soup (rather than being a clear broth).

  • Star anise (optional) – For extra flavour.

  • Sesame oil – Also for flavour!

  • Chicken broth/stock (or vegetable broth) – Use low sodium otherwise the broth may be a touch too salty for your taste. I prefer chicken to vegetable stock because I find vegetable stock a little too plain for a simple soup like this, though it’s easy to add extra oomph with a very generous dollop of your favourite chilli sauce! (See toppings below)

    Use a decent stock, because it’s the foundation of the soup broth (🇦🇺 I use Campbells, personally think it’s better than other mainstream brands at regular grocery stores). Though the best is, of course, homemade. 🙂 Here’s my homemade chicken stock and vegetable stock.

  • Soy sauce – either all purpose or light soy sauce will work here. Don’t use dark soy sauce or sweet soy sauce – the flavour of these are too intense. More on different types of soy sauces here (it matters!).

  • Sugar – just a touch, to balance out the flavours.

2. THE VEGETABLES

Make this soup with any cook-able vegetables you want. This is my default combination – read below for why! PS Goes without saying that any protein would very much be at home here, whether cooked chicken, tofu, leftover Char Siu slices or some fish pieces or raw prawns.

  • Chinese broccoli – also known as Gai Lan, I like that you get “meatier” stalks as well as the leafy part, and that chopping it up is a breeze. No peeling, no mess, no fuss, unlike, say, a gazillion little bits of broccoli floret bits everywhere – you know what I mean! Substitute with any leafy Asian greens, broccoli or broccolini

  • Enoki mushrooms – As explained above, the inner-child within doesn’t feel cheated by the absence of noodles when I include these noodle-shaped mushrooms. Are you feeling amused or appalled that these are the types of thoughts that occupy by mind? 😂 And, so much cheaper than all those trendy low-calorie noodles in the health food aisle these days!

  • Carrots – Because I always have them, mum always told me they’re good for your eye-sight, and they add a bit of colour into the soup. 🙂

Other vegetable suggestions

As noted above, any cook-able vegetable can be used here, thus is the beauty of this recipe! Here are some suggestions and how to chop them:

  • Leafy Asian greens, cabbage – chopped

  • Mushrooms – sliced or quartered

  • Zucchini – sliced into half moons or like the carrot in this recipe

  • Eggplant – cut into bit size pieces (such great sponge for flavour!)

  • Green beans, snow peas, asparagus, baby corn (canned or fresh) – cut into short spoonable lengths

  • Broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower,

  • Pumpkin, celery, capsicum, onion, leek, radish, potato, parsnip, other root vegetables – chopped into small spoonable pieces

  • Corn kernels, peas

  • Frozen diced vegetables (why not? :))

3. TOPPINGS

Soups this simple benefit from toppings to take it from “tasty” to “OMG, finally, healthy food that’s sooooo gooood!!”. Here’s what I use – again, driven by staples in my pantry.

  • Coriander/cilantro – Some kind of herb goes a long way to lift soups, though the absence of fresh herbs does not stop me from making it. Coriander is a staple in my fridge, being a herb that is commonly used in cuisines that I regularly cook (south East Asian, Mexican, South-west) so that’s why it’s the base herb in this soup. Thai basil, mint and chives are also excellent alternatives, followed closely by regular basil (as a substitute for Thai basil).

  • Chilli something (optional) – A good chilli sauce, chilli paste or chilli crisp can make anything better, and it’s the perfect finishing touch here! My obsession with chilli crisps is fairly well documented in posts of recent years, with Mrs C’s Apprentice topping the list as a personal Australian-made favourite (online here, only get the OG “original” if you can handle the heat!). Lao Ganma is well established worldwide favourite. Read more about my chilli crisp recommendations in my Chilli Crisp Noodles recipe along with homemade options, photos etc.

  • Crispy Fried Shallots – Pantry essential! Salty, crispy little pops that I use to sprinkle on “everything Asian” from salads to stir fries to soups to noodles! They are such a regular I even wrote about them here. Find them in the Asian aisle of regular grocery stores, cheaper at Asian stores, and look for chunkier bits rather than the powdery broken ones.


How to make my quickest Chinese Vegetable Soup

The workflow for this recipe is nice and streamlined which is why this comes together so quickly.

  1. Broth – Pour the stock into a small pot over high heat. As it is coming to the simmer, measure out and add the soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, sugar and star anise. Cut the garlic in half, slice the ginger (no need to remove the skin) and plonk that in. (Let’s say this takes

  2. Infuse broth (5 minutes) – Once it comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium/medium low to let it simmer away gently for 5 minutes.

  1. Chop veg – While the soup is simmering, cut the vegetables, ready to toss into the soup. Chop up a green onion, rip a handful of coriander sprigs off a bunch, wash and shake dry (ain’t nobody got time to pull out a salad spinner or patting dry!).

  2. Braise veg (6 minutes) – Put the Chinese broccoli stems, carrots and mushrooms into the broth. Simmer for 5 minutes. Push the Chinese broccoli leaves in and cook for 1 minute until they start to wilt.

    And we’re DONE!! Time to serve!

  1. Ladle the vegetables and broth into bowls.

  2. Toppings – Mound the coriander on top, sprinkle with green onions and a generous amount of crispy fried shallots. Dollop as much or as little chilli crisp as you want/dare. Then dig in!

Serving Chinese vegetable soup
Bowl of Chinese vegetable soup ready to be eaten

YUM.

I literally just had this for lunch today, 2 hours before I hit publish. And I made it yesterday too, when I filmed it.

Aside from making/eating it to publish the recipe on my website, hand on heart, this is the meal I’ve been making the most often midweek as the weather has started to cool. It’s just downright tasty, one of the best fridge-forage recipes I know, filled with good-for-you vegetables yet still downright tasty.

I feel a little bad for holding it back from you for 10 years. But it’s here now! I hope you grow to love it as much as I do. – Nagi x


Watch how to make it

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Chinese vegetable soup ready to eat

My quickest Chinese Vegetable Soup – low calorie miracle!

Servings2

Tap or hover to scale

Recipe video above. My quickest Chinese Vegetable Soup. Quick and easy, versatile, extremely low 108 calories yet still downright delicious. If only all healthy food was this tasty!Pile in as much veg as you want! It cooks down so you can really go wild. (PS If you need carbs though – I get it – here’s the Noodle Soup version here and the Rice Soup version here!)**Slide the Servings scaler to scale up**

Ingredients

Vegetables (be generous!) – or other veg Note 6

Instructions

  • Infused broth – Place Broth ingredients in a large saucepan over high heat. Place lid on, bring to a simmer then reduce to the lowest heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. (Meanwhile, chop the veg)

  • Cook vegetables – Turn the heat up to high and bring the liquid back to a rapid simmer. Add the carrots, Chinese broccoli stems and enoki mushrooms. Cook 3 minutes. Add Chinese broccoli leaves, push in a simmer for 2 minutes until wilted.

  • Serve – Pick the garlic and ginger out of soup. Divide between 2 bowls. Top with a mound of coriander, sprinkle with green onions, shower with crispy shallots, and a good dollop of chilli sauce or chilli crisp. Dig in, feel good!

Recipe Notes:

1.  Chicken stock/broth – just store bought chicken broth is fine here, but get a good quality one (Campbells in Australia is my favourite brand). Don’t use chicken stock powder with hot water for this recipe – the flavour is too chickeny.
2. Soy sauce – Don’t use dark soy sauce or sweet soy, they are too intense for this soup. See here for information about different types of soy sauces.
3. Chinese cooking wine is a key ingredient to transform store bought chicken broth into a restaurant-quality soup broth. Dry Sherry is an excellent substitute. Otherwise, Japanese cooking sake or mirin are adequate substitutes (if you use Mirin, skip sugar).
If you cannot use alcohol, I think the best sub is as follows:

  • Reduce soy sauce to 1 tbsp
  • Add 1 tbsp Oyster Sauce (this has umami and will add complexity into the broth flavour to compensate for leaving out cooking wine).

4. Extra broth flavouring options: chilli, green onion (just fold them) or onion quarters.
5. Sesame oil – use toasted (brown colour, more intense sesame flavour), not untoasted (yellow, not common in Australia).
6. Other vegetables – Any cookable vegetables will work great here! Zucchini, cabbage, other mushrooms, sweet potato, green beans, broccoli eggplant, bean sprouts. See in post for an extensive list and how to chop.
7. Chinese broccoli cutting (video is helpful) – Cut thinner stems into 2cm/0.5″ pieces, thicker stems (~1.5cm / 0.5″+) into 1cm / 1/3″ thick slices and mega thick stems (2cm+) into thin coins. 
Cut leaves into 2 cm / 0.8″ thick slices. Separate stem from leafy part (added to pot at different times).
8. Enoki mushrooms – The long thin “noodle” shaped mushrooms that I use extensively in soups when I’m aiming for low-carb, because I treat them like healthy faux noodles! Sold at large grocery stores these days though much, much cheaper at Asian stores. Use leftovers in stir fries and Asian soups (like Chinese Chicken & Corn, Hot & Sour Soup)
Nutrition is per serving, assuming 1 tsp sesame oil used, excludes toppings. 1 tbsp crispy fried shallots = 20 calories.

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 585gCalories: 108cal (5%)Carbohydrates: 14g (5%)Protein: 6g (12%)Fat: 3g (5%)Saturated Fat: 0.3g (2%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 2644mg (115%)Potassium: 443mg (13%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 7g (8%)Vitamin A: 5866IU (117%)Vitamin C: 27mg (33%)Calcium: 57mg (6%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Need more low-calorie-but-still-tasty?

Don’t we all! Here are some of my favourites – or see all my Low Calorie recipes here.


Life of Dozer

May there be many more Sunday mornings like this. ❤️

Though ironically, Dozer would not agree as he would rather I schlepped to the beach at 6.30 am so he could play with his buddies, like I do almost every other weekend. But, it was pouring on the weekend so I used that as an excuse to sleep in!

In other news, I seem to have misplaced his life jacket. I know, you’re wondering how one manages to misplace a giant fluro orange jacket like this:

Dozer life jacket

So I had to get a replacement – no more swimming for Dozer without one!

I found a promising sounding “sport high performance” life jacket online which offered swimming support but also good freedom for easy movement, I just received it and tried it on him.

Looking at it (below), it looks too small and doesn’t look like it will provide enough flotation support. I think it’s safer to stick with a bulkier, senior-citizen friendly version with extra flotation support to keep him nice and buoyant in the water. Safe to say Dozer’s high performance sports days are over!!

Flashback to his “high performance sports” days ❤️

That’s Dozer on the right
Dozer again on the right (winning!)

Ahh Dozer. You were one sporty dog!

But I love you more today than I ever have, grey hairs, old-man problems and all. – N x ❤️



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