Coconut Lemongrass Tofu Soup

This recipe is inspired by one of my very favorite Thai soups, tom kha.  While tom kha soup is totally delicious, it isn’t always plant based.  I cut the fat using lite coconut milk.  I created a flavor by adding dulse seaweed and fake chicken broth.  Some of the elements remain the same–galangal root, lemongrass, a mix of vegetables and tofu.  In the end, it is very similar to good ol’ tom kha soup, tastes delicious, and is incredibly easy to make.

For this recipe, I used Maine Coast Dulse, which can be ordered online or found at natural foods stores around the US. If you don’t have it on-hand, you might be thinking, “If I buy dulse seaweed for this soup, when would I ever use it again?”  O, you will!   Here’s the thing, dulse has a lot of applications in vegan cooking.

When dulse is fried in oil, it tastes like bacon.  Who doesn’t want to add bacony flavor to plant based dishes?  When dulse is added to simmering soups, it adds to the flavor, especially if you want it to have a “from the sea” flavor.  Adding a touch of dulse to Coconut Lemongrass Tofu Soup made it possible to say “adios” to the fish sauce that is commonly used in traditional recipes for tom kha soup. 

Galangal root is a staple in Thai cooking.  While it looks similar to ginger and is in the same family as ginger, it does not taste like ginger.  It’s a touch piney and quite citrusy.  Some compare it to turmeric, because it’s a powerhouse root that’s loaded with beneficial properties.  Other people say that you can use ginger as a substitute for galangal.  I would say, if you have an Asian market or international grocer nearby, buy some galangal root, while you’re picking up your lemongrass 🙂  It’s worth it!

For the citrus zest (lime and lemon) in this recipe, I used a peeler to get strips of zest. If you watch this video to from the beginning to the 49 second mark, you’ll see exactly what you need to do. He is zesting an orange in the video, but the same rules apply to all citrus. Avoid the white part, only the outermost layer, etc. I like to keep the zest in a strip for this soup. You can either fish out the strips of zest before serving, or just easily avoid eating them by maneuvering around them with your spoon.

If you prefer a spicier soup, add some jalapeño slices towards the end of cooking, or if you have some red curry paste on hand, add some!  For a variation, use soy curls instead of tofu, or stir in some prepared noodles at the end of cooking.  

Coconut Lemongrass Tofu Soup

2 stalks of lemongrass, cleaned and chopped

2″ X 2″ strip of lime zest (see notes above)

2 inch piece of galangal root, chopped into quarters

2″ X 2″ strip of lemon zest (see note above)

1 tsp dried dulse seaweed

2 13.5 ounce cans of lite coconut milk

2 cups fake chicken broth

1 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce

2 Tbsp-¼ cup fresh lime juice

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup broccoli florets

2 carrots, sliced

3 scallions, chopped

14 ounce package of extra firm tofu, drained and cubed

1 fresh tomato, chopped

Cilantro, to taste

Salt

1. In a large heavy pot or dutch oven, add lemongrass, strip of lime zest, strip of lemon zest, galangal root, dulse, coconut milk, and broth.  Cover and simmer over low for 20 minutes. 

2. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the tomatoes and cilantro.  Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until the carrots are cooked through.  

3. Add the tomatoes and cilantro.  Taste, and adjust seasonings, if needed (more salt? more dulse?).  Fish out the lemongrass, galangal root, and strips of lime and lemon zest before serving.

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