So I got this message from my friend Dominique:
This weekend I made bok choy + tamarind + mushroom soup, and it was delish, despite mushrooms and instant tamarind being from a sketchy as hell Asian store. It happens to be vegan, but it's comforting and simple. Thought you might want to investigate my homeland village cuisine.
Then she sent me this recipe:
Chop an entire bok choy stalk into 1.5 inch bites. Add to boiling water. Add instant tamarind. Salt and pepper lightly. Add some garlic-sauteed mushrooms. Let simmer for as long as you think the village would have let simmer. Eat.
So I made it. But I made it wrong. The recipe wasn't in front of me, and I just kind of went with what I thought I remembered it said.
The biggest wrongness was using kale instead of bok choy, which WTF, I went out and bought a damn bok choy just to use in this soup, how could I forget it? The soup was still pretty darn good, though, it would have been better with bok choy (which sounds like the title of a kind of unpromising cookbook). The welcome sourness of the tamarind perked up everything else, and the long simmer transformed the tofu into deep flavoriciousness that married nicely with the slightly firmer texture of the mushrooms.
Here's what I did with it:
Filipino Village Soup, Sort Of, As Inexpertly Interpreted by a Portland White Girl
Serves six, probably
2 Tbsp peanut oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
A 2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (not, for this recipe, Microplaned)
1/2 pound trumpet or oyster mushrooms, chopped fairly small
5 cups vegetable broth (if broth is very salty, reduce or omit soy sauce)
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 bunch kale, ribs sliced out, coarsely chopped, OR (for better results), 1 bok choy, coarsely chopped
1 cake firm or extra-firm tofu, cut in 1/4" dice
Heat peanut oil in a soup pot over medium heat; add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they render their liquid, about 3 minutes more. Don't let garlic brown/burn.
Add broth, tamarind paste and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Add bok choy and tofu. Return to a simmer; cook, covered, until you're ready to eat, about half an hour or so.
Image by Flickr user Tatters:). Used under a Creative Commons license.