Indulge yourself in the comforting embrace of Chinese tofu soup with vegetables. It requires little effort but offers a delightful outcome.
Note: This is a revised version of my 2017 post, featuring minor alterations, additional tips, and process shots.
Today, I’m introducing Chinese Tofu Soup with Vegetables (豆腐鲜蔬汤), a refreshing, soothing dish that I often turn to when my stomach craves a warm hug, especially after a hearty feast or on chilly days.
Why this recipe
Although I’m a big fan of well-spiced food (think Mapo Tofu, Sichuan Mala Chicken), I also appreciate lightly-seasoned dishes that allow each ingredient to show off its natural taste. This tofu and vegetable soup is a great example.
Also, what makes this simple dish stand out is the rich umami taste (Xiān Wèi/鲜味) it offers without using any artificial flavoring. Dried shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes, and dried shrimp are the key contributors.
As flavorful as can be, it calls for a short ingredient list, minimum preparation, and it’s very low in calories. So you need to give it a try!
To make this tofu and vegetable soup, here is the list of ingredients that you need:
- Tofu, soft or medium-firm
- Bok choy (aka pak choi), or napa cabbage
- Dried shiitake mushrooms, or other flavorful mushrooms
- Dried shrimp, see below for vegan substitutions
- Seasonings: light soy sauce, salt, white pepper, sesame oil
Dried shrimp & substitutes
Dried shrimp is one of my secret ingredients for making extra tasty dishes. A small amount of it creates a distinct umami flavor that goes a long way. It works in a similar way to shrimp paste and fish sauce in Southeast Asian cuisines.
In Chinese/Asian stores, you can find two types of dried shrimp (See image above): the big, headless, orange-colored ones, and the small, whole-bodied, pale ones. Both work well for the recipe (I used the former for shooting this recipe).
🛎 Vegan substitutes: If you wish to make this dish vegan-friendly, omit dried shrimp and use mushroom/vegetable broth to replace water for the soup.
This dish takes less than 5 minutes to cook. But you’ll need to take some time to pre-soak the dried mushroom and dried shrimp beforehand.
Step 1: Rehydrate the dried ingredients
Dried shiitake mushrooms are wonderful at lending earthy, umami flavor to dishes. They’re much more aromatic than fresh mushrooms and thus are a better option. As I explained in my Guide to Shiitake Mushrooms, there are two methods to rehydrate them:
- Soak them in cold water for 6 hours or overnight (This produces a better result)
- Soak them in hot water for 30 minutes (This saves you when time is tight)
After soaking, squeeze water out of the mushrooms then cut them into thin slices. Make sure you don’t discard the soaking water. It will be used in the soup.
🛎 Tip: If you use fresh mushrooms as a substitute, consider using chicken, mushroom, or vegetable stock to enhance the flavor of the dish.
Dried shrimp also needs to be rehydrated to release its full flavor. Use a little hot water to soak for 10 minutes. Then chop the softened shrimp into finer pieces. You can also keep the soaking water to add to the soup later.
Step 2: Prepare other ingredients
Cut tofu into cubes that you can easily scoop up with a spoon. Slice tomatoes into wedges. Chop bok choy into bite-sized pieces and separate them into two piles: stems and leaves. Finely chop scallions and separate the white the green parts too.
Step 3: Cook the soup
Firstly, heat oil in a wok/pot. Then sizzle the white part of the scallions and dried shrimp to bring out their fragrance.
Add shiitake mushroom and tomato and stir fry until the tomato turns a little mushy.
Pour in the mushroom soaking water (do so gently and leave out any residue at the bottom of the bowl) and the shrimp soaking water. Top up with some hot water. Bring to a full boil.
Gently slide in the tofu cubes. Leave to cook uncovered for about 2 minutes.
Add the bok choy stems and continue simmering for 20 seconds or so.
Then turn off the heat. Add the leafy part of the bok choy to the soup, along with light soy sauce, salt, white pepper, and sesame oil. Give it a final stir then garnish with scallion greens.
🛎 Tip: Do not overcook bok choy to prevent it from losing crunchiness and becoming stringy. 20 seconds is enough to cook the stems and the leafy part can be cooked through simply by the heat of the soup.
Compared to light soups like Egg Drop Soup, this tofu soup is quite substantial as it includes both protein and vegetables. So I sometimes make it for lunch and pair it with staples like Scallion Pancakes, Steamed Flower Rolls, or Zucchini pancakes.
Other warming dishes
Looking for more tasty recipes that warm up your body? Here are some great recipes to try:
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & if you REALLY like it, consider leaving a comment as well!
Tofu Soup with Vegetables (豆腐鲜蔬汤)
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms - see note 1 for substitutes
- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp - see note 2 for substitutes
- 1 lb tofu - soft or medium-firm
- 1 medium tomato
- 9 oz bok choy - or napa cabbage
- 2 stalk scallions
- 2 teaspoon neutral cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
Soak the dried ingredients
- Rinse dried shiitake mushrooms then soak them in 2 cups (500ml) of water for about 6 hours or overnight (If in a hurry, soak in hot water for 30 minutes). Take them out (Keep the water in which they’re soaked for later use) and trim off the stems then cut into thin slices.
- Soak dried shrimp in ¼ cup (60ml) of hot water for about 10 minutes. Chop it into smaller pieces. Keep the soaking water.
Prepare other ingredients
- Cut tofu into bite-sized cubes. Slice tomatoes into wedges. Separate the stems and leaves of bok choy. Cut them into 1-inch (2½ cm) pieces. Finely chop the scallions, and keep their white and green parts separated.
Cook the soup
- Heat cooking oil in a wok (or a pot). Sizzle the white part of the scallions and dried shrimp until fragrant. Stir in the mushroom and tomato. Fry briefly until the tomato becomes a little mushy on the edge.
- Slowly pour in the water in which the mushrooms are soaked, leaving any impurities at the bottom of the bowl. Add the dried shrimp soaking water and 2 cups (500 ml) of hot water. Bring it to a full boil.
- Slide in the tofu cubes. Leave to simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes.
- Add the stem part of the bok choy. Cook for a further 20 seconds.
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the leafy part of the bok choy. Add light soy sauce, salt, white pepper, and sesame oil. Mix well then garnish with the green part of the scallions.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.