Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Spinach, Tofu and Mushroom Soup (菠菜豆腐冬菇湯)

I've been clearing out the fridge and freezer over the last two weeks. Being stingy, it pains me to throw out anything unless it's absolutely necessary, so you'll often find odds and sods that I think I'll be able to find a use for somewhere. It's also used as overspill when my generous parents turn up with about 2 weeks' worth of food to make sure that the family doesn't starve - very much appreciated in the busy weeks. On having a root around, I discovered; two bags of pork rind, a bag of random pork bones, a huge amount of mooli cake, some extremely old black pudding, a box of chicken carcasses, two boxes of peeled broccoli stems, a bag of wholemeal breadcrumbs, some pureed beetroot, some chocolate buttercream from goodness knows when and about a million random bread bags with only the end slices remaining (for the ducks).

For dinner tonight, I defrosted the remaining portion of Slow-Cooked Chicken with Chestnut and Potatoes (栗子薯仔炆雞) and decided to use the pork bones to make soup. It gave me the chance to use up some stuff in the fridge too: half a box of tofu, about 6 days past its use-by but smelling ok, and the remaining bunch of spinach from the Chinese supermarket. This spinach is robust and hearty, pulled up by the roots and with the red iron tinge at the base of the stems. It needs to be thoroughly washed in a couple of changes of water before use, otherwise you will find little insects rising to the surface of your soup.

The taste is fresh and packed with flavour; the umami hit of the shiitake mushrooms, the metallic bitterness of the spinach and the creamy softness of the tofu. I make the stock in a slow cooker overnight, then finish the soup just before we eat, but you can also cook on the hob - give the bones and shiitake at least 30 minutes at a gentle boil to let the flavour permeate the water.

The bones were free and I am not worried about picking through them when they fall apart, however for a tidier dish, use some pork ribs or a pork chop instead.



  • 2-3 pork bones (or use 4-6 pork ribs, or a large pork chop)
  • 2 slices of raw ginger, peeled and bashed with the flat of a cleaver
  • approx. 1.5-2 litres of water
  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • (Optional) 3-4 black peppercorns
  • 200g firm tofu, cut into 2-3cm cubes
  • A large bunch of spinach, washed thoroughly and chopped half
  • Salt to season
  • A dash of white pepper
  • A few drops of sesame oil
Serves 4-6



  • Reconstitute the shiitake mushrooms by placing them in a bowl and covering with boiling water. Soak for at least 20 minutes, then remove any tough bases on the stalks
  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the pork bones and boil for 5 minutes to remove the scum. Drain and rinse thoroughly
  • Place the pork bones, ginger and shiitake mushrooms into a slow cooker and cover with water, to about 2/3 of the capacity of the pot. Add the peppercorns. Cook on low overnight
  • Skim any fat or remaining scum from the surface of the pot and pour into a saucepan on the hob. Bring to a rolling boil and add the tofu. Bring back to the boil for 1 minute
  • Add the spinach to the pot and bring back to the boil, until the leaves are just wilted
  • Season generously with salt and add a pinch of white pepper, until the soup meets the desired taste
  • Remove from the heat and add a few drops of sesame oil

Spinach, Tofu and Mushroom Soup (菠菜豆腐菇湯)

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