Vegetable Tea

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    8 to 10

    servings as part of a multicourse meal

Appears in

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Loh Sye Moi makes this healthy light soup for special occasions, such as the birth of a son, or during the first ten days of Chinese New Year. She arranges eight different vegetables in a bowl to create a pretty kaleidoscope of greens. Each vegetable contributes a different texture and flavor—from mild to bitter, sweet to pungent. A clear broth is poured over the arrangement, and a spoonful of coarse ground peanuts and sesame seeds tops it off.

Much of the prep can be done a day in advance. Slice the vegetables into thin strips, about ¼ inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long. For most greens, simply slice the leaves crosswise and cut in half if too wide. Include the tender stems, unless the recipe specifies only leaves. To find descriptions of unfamiliar vegetables, check the Hakka Pantry. If you can’t find all the vegetables, let the bounty of your farmers’ market guide you in choosing alternatives. Basically, you want an assortment of vegetables that will contribute different flavors and textures. Keep in mind that leafy vegetables shrink greatly, while dense, drier vegetables may not. You should end up with about the same amount of each vegetable. Serve any leftover vegetables in broth for second helpings, or reserve for another use.

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Ingredients

Fish Broth (See Note)

  • 10 cups water, or as needed
  • 2 cups dried anchovies (about 2 ounces), rinsed
  • 6 ounces Asian white radish, such as daikon, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 6 thin slices fresh ginger, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Vegetables

  • 2 medium leeks (1 to 1½ pounds total, untrimmed weight)
  • cup vegetable oil, or as needed
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 6 to 8 ounces spinach leaves, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
  • Salt
  • 6 to 8 ounces amaranth or red chard leaves, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
  • 4 ounces green cabbage, thinly sliced (about cups)
  • 7 ounces napa cabbage, thinly sliced (about cups)
  • 6 ounces baby bok choy or white-stemmed bok choy, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 5 ounces yao choy or mustard greens, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 7 ounces Chinese celery or common celery, thinly sliced (about cups)

Garnish

  • ¼ cup roasted, salted peanuts
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

Method

For the Fish Broth

  1. Up to a day ahead, in a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, combine the water, dried anchovies, radish, and ginger; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the broth is well flavored, about 1 hour. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard solids. If needed, add water to make 2 quarts. Shortly before serving, return the broth to a boil over high heat. Add the sesame oil and salt to taste.

For the Vegetables

  1. Trim off and discard the root ends and dark green tops from the leeks. Cut the white parts in half lengthwise, rinse well between the layers, and drain. Thinly slice the leeks crosswise to make about cups.
  2. Up to a day ahead, cook the vegetables. Set a 14-inch wok or 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, after about 1 minute, add 2 teaspoons of the oil and rotate the pan to spread. Add ½ teaspoon of the garlic and stir until it softens, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and Stir-fry until it wilts slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt to taste. Mound the cooked spinach on a large plate or in a small bowl. Repeat, using the same pan (no need to wash unless you’re using red chard), with the amaranth, green cabbage, napa cabbage, bok choy, yao choy, celery, and leeks; cook in separate batches until the leafy greens wilt or the denser vegetables are crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes, adding a little water if the vegetables are dense or begin to burn. Place in separate mounds on the plate or in individual small bowls. Each vegetable should measure about 1 cup cooked.

For the Garnish

  1. In a mortar and pestle or food processor, coarsely grind the peanuts and sesame seeds.

To serve

In eight to ten 1½- to 2-cup bowls, attractively arrange equal portions of all the cooked vegetables in separate mounds. If made up to 1 day ahead, cover and chill. Arrange the bowls on a shallow baking pan and lightly cover. If refrigerated, let the bowls warm to room temperature for at least 2 hours. Shortly before serving, place the pan of covered bowls in a 250°F oven until the vegetables are hot to the touch, about 10 minutes. Slowly ladle the boiling broth over the vegetables without disturbing the arrangement. Place a spoonful of the peanut-sesame mixture in the center of each bowl and serve.

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