This spicy tofu soup is an easy weeknight vegan dinner. Cooked in one pot, it’s a relatively hands off and hearty soup.
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It may be spring, but we’ve still got soup weather. Sacramento spring is often marked by warm sunny days, and cool chilly nights. So far this year, it’s been no exception. This weather fuels a desire to run around outside and welcome the sunshine. But the near freezing nights means the best dinners are hearty and warm.
A few weeks ago, my friend Melissa received a bunch of mizuna greens in her CSA. Like many home cooks, she turned to Pinterest to scour the interwebs for a recipe. And what did she find? A lot of salads.
Mizuna greens are excellent in salads, but isn’t it worth having a few other things you can do with them? I thought so too.
Melissa, this one’s for you.
Spicy Tofu Soup with Mizuna Greens
I have a love for Korean food that unfortunately my partner does not share. Which means we almost never go out for Korean food. But I like to think that I might be able to convince him otherwise with this tofu soup.
One of my favorite things about going out for Korean food is the banchan! I could eat banchan for days. All the different pickles, vegetables, fish cakes, tofu, they’re a meal themselves.
But I do have a few favorite main dishes. Kimchi jjigae is one of them. This spicy tofu soup with kimchi is served boiling hot with a side of plain rice. It’s spicy and sour from the kimchi with hunks of slippery silken tofu. It’s fantastic. In fact, spicy, hearty stew is made for cold evenings.
Since I made these Asian roasted beets, I’ve been adding doenjang and gochujang (fermented soybean paste and chili paste respectively) to a lot of my home cooking. These Korean ingredients are excellent additions to soups and stews. I use them instead of bouillon or broth to add flavor and spice, like with this tofu soup recipe. Inspired by traditional Korean soup, but by no means an attempt at Korean food.
Nevertheless, I wanted to keep Korean and other Asian ingredients as key components of this recipe. Cooking the pearled barley in the tofu soup flavors the grains beautifully. I selected pearled barley because it soaks up more liquid compared to hulled barley. And toasted barley tea is often served with Korean food.
While kimchi jjigae is full of vegetables (ginger, onions, kimchi, scallions), I always like to add a bit more green to my meals. Enter: mizuna greens.
Cooking with Mizuna Greens
Mizuna greens are a type of Japanese mustard green. It’s another one of the many edible brassica plants like broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage and kale. If you’re looking for more brassica recipes, this vegetarian breakfast casserole has several kinds.
At first glance, mizuna greens look pretty similar to dandelion greens. However, mizuna greens have thinner, more delicate stems while dandelion greens have wider, thicker stems.
The flavor of mizuna is milder, and more sweet than other brassicas but it does have a distinctive bitterness. Traditionally, it is often eaten pickled or sauteed. These days, however, you’ll find ample recipes for salads.
Given the many other greens available for salads, I tend to use mizuna in stir fries, soups, and pastas. So, when Melissa requested a recipe with mizuna greens that was not salad, I gladly obliged and included them in this vegetarian tofu soup.
Spicy Tofu Soup with Mizuna Greens
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 4 cloves black garlic minced
- 6 cups hot water
- 2 tablespoons doenjang (<-affiliate)
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (<-affiliate)
- 1 cup pearled barley
- 14- ounces silken tofu diced into 1-inch cubes
- 2 large bunches mizuna greens chopped into 1/2-inch long pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)
In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium low heat.
Add onions, black garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook onions and black garlic, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes until the onions begin to caramelize.
Add water, doenjang and gochujang.
Bring to a boil and make sure doenjang and gochujang have dissolved in the water.
Add pearled barley, reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add tofu, and check barley for doneness. The grains should be tender and chewy. Simmer another 10 to 15 minutes as needed.
Remove from heat and stir in mizuna greens.
If you have some time, let the onions and black garlic fully caramelize. The sweetness they add to this spicy tofu soup is the perfect balance to the kick of heat. If you’re looking for a less spicy soup, reduce the gochujang.
Pearled barley soaks up so much of the flavor and cooking liquid, which is why I recommend it for this recipe. If you have hulled barley (with the bran on), it will take about 15 to 25 minutes longer to cook. You can reduce the cooking liquid by one third.
Swap the barley for brown rice. Check your soybean paste and chili paste for traces of gluten, which is listed in some brands. Gluten free miso is a good alternative with chili powder or your preferred chili paste.
Pork is the traditional meat served with Korean tofu soup (kimchi jjigae), on which this recipe is loosely based. I recommend browning your sliced meat with the onions and black garlic before adding water and barley.
Check the Fridge
Don’t have mizuna greens? Other Asian greens like bok choy, mustard greens or napa cabbage go well with this tofu soup. They will take a bit longer to cook, so add them with the tofu. Leafy greens such as dandelion greens, chard, or beet greens will cook similarly to the mizuna greens. These are also good options.
Likewise, you can easily substitute firm tofu for silken tofu depending on what you have.
Black garlic is a slow cooked garlic. You can typically find it at health food stores. If you don't have this ingredient, use regular garlic but add it after the onions are cooked. Alternately, use roasted garlic in place of the black garlic as the sweetness is similar.
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