Buddhist Sour Soup

Total Time:
1 hr 15 min
50 min
25 min

4 to 6 servings

  • Soup:
  • 3 blocks tofu (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4 cup tamarind pulp, dissolved in 1 cup hot water
  • Scant 1/2 pound okra (approximately 2 cups)
  • 5 cups water
  • 3/4 cup fresh pineapple cut into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 1 stalk bac ha (giant taro), cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Garnish and flavorings:
  • 1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 to 3 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
  • 12 leaves Asian basil, coarsely torn
  • 6 sprigs rice paddy herb (ngo om, optional)
  • 2 to 4 bird or serrano chiles, minced
  • For the soup, place the tofu blocks on a plate, place another plate on top, and weight with a jar or 14 to 28-ounce can. Let stand for 30 minutes. Water will be pressed out of the tofu as it stands; drain it off every 15 minutes or so. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

  • Use your fingers to squeeze and press the tamarind to dissolve it completely and to squeeze the last of the pulp off any seeds and pith. Place a sieve over a small bowl and pour the tamarind water through. Discard any solids and set the liquid aside.

  • If the okra is large, cut crosswise in 1/2 and cut off any tough tips, leaving the stems on.

  • For the garnish, heat the oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until well-browned, then remove from the heat and set aside.

  • To make the soup, place the tamarind liquid and the 5 cups water in a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a vigorous boil, then add the okra (if your okra is very fresh and tender, add it later, with the tomato wedges) and pineapple. Boil vigorously for 3 minutes, then add the bac ha, if using, the sugar, salt, and tomato wedges. Bring back to a boil, then add the tofu cubes and soy sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the balance of seasonings if you wish.

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