Coconut Water Lotus Root Soup
Let’s talk bone broth. Sure, it’s touted by many dieticians as the supposed magic elixir for wellbeing. More importantly though (to me at least), it’s the base ingredient for many of the heartiest, soul-warming soups out there.
Think back to that pumpkin soup you had at that one cafe that tasted so darn good you suspect they add MSG into it, or to the chicken soup / ABC soup / what-have-you soup your mom used to make that was so simple but was somehow so comforting and hygge-inducing. Let’s face it, while purely vegetarian/vegan soups can be good, the ingredient that makes a good soup great is more often than not the addition of the flesh and bones that’s been boiled to brittleness, all its flavour leeched out into the broth, elevating it to umami-sweet greatness.
So surely no truly vegetarian soup can compete with the punchy, umami-sweet flavour of bone broth / stock-based soups. Or so I thought...
Long story short(-ish), now that my sister is vegetarian (kudos to you Jia), all the soups (and many of the dishes) we make at home has had to be made sans meat or bones. My first thought was that it was gonna be real hard to make soups taste as good as those with a bone broth base. But my mom, being the domestic goddess she is, whipped up a new trick straight out of that admirably ad-hoc, endlessly experimental brain of hers. To account for the sorely missed savoury-sweetness you usually get from bones, she added… coconut water! GENIUS.
I know, it’s slightly out there as far as recipes go. But trust me, it works. While coconut water does not make soups taste meaty (if only, eh?), the subtle sweetness from it serves as a better-than-expected substitute for the salty-sweetness that you get off regular bone broths. So much so that the first time I drank a coconut-water-instead-of-pork-bone-broth ABC soup my mom made, I couldn’t even tell the difference, until she sneakily admitted it! (Or maybe I just have terrible tastebuds.)
She recently made a lotus root and peanut soup, a staple of Chinese (Teochew?) cooking, again using coconut water in place of bone broth. And gosh the resulting broth was so viscerally comforting and umami-sweet, it just went and reinforced this wild, slight (coco)nuts concept for me. Vegan soups never tasted this good! So I'm a convert, which explains why her recipe is now here on the blog.
Now excuse me while I go slurp up some of this veggie goodness.
Coconut Water Lotus Root Soup
1 lotus roots, peeled but not sliced
1 litre water
750ml coconut water
5-10 dried red dates
Soak the peanuts for at least 30 minutes, or for up to 12 hours.
Add the soaked peanuts, lotus root, and salt into a large pot and fill with water, making sure all the ingredients are submerged. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and let it cook for 4-5 hours, until the peanuts are all soft and mushy. (Alternatively, you can use a pressure cooker, in which case you’ll only need to cook it for roughly 45 minutes.)
Now, remove the lotus root from the soup. Let it cool until cold enough to handle and slice them width-wise into roughly 1cm thick slices. Then plop the sliced pieces back into the soup.
Add in the coconut water and red dates to the soup, and bring it back to boil, then simmer for another 15 minutes.
Serve scalding hot.