I bought some fresh tofu last Saturday that I was planning to make into mapo doufu. Jan’s schedule interfered. She had work on Monday and Tuesday nights. When she came back she did not want anything as spicy as mapo doufu.
Yesterday I used some of the tofu for tofu burgers. I was thinking about making a stir-fry with the rest, but Jan decided that she felt like a soup. I also have some Chinese broccoli that I had bout for the meal that never happened. So I decided to rummage my refrigerator and come up with a Chinese soup starting with these two ingredients.
With the tofu, the soup does not need a lot of meat, but a little would be nice. I hate wasting food. When I buy a whole chicken I usually cut out the backs and freeze them with the necks, wing tips, hearts, and gizzards. The problem with this is that eventually I have four or five packages of these chicken bits cluttering up my freezer. Two pounds of these would make a rich broth with a few bits of meat.
Green onions go well with tofu and Chinese broccoli, so that would make up the vegetable part of the dish. What Chinese flavors would complement them? Garlic and ginger, of course, maybe some star anise as well. Black mushrooms and some shaoxing rice wine for the low and high notes. Finally, finishing splashes of soy sauce, black vinegar and sesame oil to balance the dish might complete the soup.
Note: I would normally add some chili to a soup like this, but Jan does not want it to be spicy. I have included La-Yu, Chinese chili oil, to be added for those who like a bit a bite to their soup.
Karl’s Chinese Broccoli Chicken Soup
1 Tbs. peanut oil
2 lb. chicken bits (backs, necks, wing tips, hearts, and gizzards)
8 cloves garlic, sliced, separate uses
6 dried black mushrooms
2 “stars” of star anise (about 1 Tbs.)
1 inch of ginger, sliced into 1/8” coins
2 cans low sodium chicken broth
½ lb. tofu
1 lb. Chinese broccoli
6-7 green onions
2 Tbs. shaoxing rice wine
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
La-Yu (chili oil, optional)
1 cup cooked rice (optional)
1. Put the peanut oil in a large soup pot and brown the chicken bits well.
Tip: I usually use peanut oil for Chinese cooking. I would prefer to use unfiltered rape seed oil, but it is not generally available in the US. Without this oil food never tastes quite “Chinese” to me.
2. Remove the chicken to a bowl as the pieces are done browning.
Tip: When returning the chicken to the pot, rinse out the bowl with a bit of hot water.
3. Drain the excess oil from the pot and deglaze the fond with four cups of water.
4. Return the chicken to the pot and add the ginger, star anise, black mushrooms, four cloves of garlic, and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat, Simmer for 2-3 hours.
Tip: Add the black mushrooms whole and uncut.
5. Put the tofu on a plate and put a second plate on top. Place a weight on top and press the excess liquid out of the tofu for at least one hour. Drain off the liquid about every half hour.
6. Remove the chicken and cool it enough to handle. Strip the meat and discard the skin, bones and any lumps of fat. Reserve the meat.
Tip: If you are not watching your weight you may keep the skin and fat in the soup.
7. Cut the Chinese broccoli stems into 2 inch planks and shred the leaves into half inch strips.
Tip: Keep the stems and leaves separate.
8. Cut the green onions into 2 inch pieces.
Tip: Keep the white parts and green parts separate.
9. Dice the tofu into ¾ inch pieces.
10. You may remove the mushrooms and cut them into shreds or leave them whole.
11. Add the broccoli stems, shaoxing rice wine, and soy sauce. Return the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes.
12. Stir in the white parts of the onions and the rest of the garlic and simmer for two more minutes.
Tip: The garlic added earlier will be completely mellowed out by hours of cooking. This added garlic refreshes the sharp garlic flavor.
13. Add the broccoli leaves, green parts of the onions and simmer for two more minutes.
14. Stir in the tofu, black vinegar, and sesame oil.
15. Simmer one more minute and serve.
Tip: More black vinegar, sesame oil and La-Yu may be served on the side to be added by the diners as it pleases them. Also, if you have diners who must have their starch, you may provide some cooked rice to stir into the soup.