Growing up, there was always a steaming bowl of Chinese-style soup on the dinner table every night to go along with all the other dishes my mom would cook. She would simmer a big pot of soup all afternoon with seasonal ingredients, and herbs & spices like star anise, dried tangerine peel, fresh nutmeg, cinnamon, goji berries, gingko nuts, lotus seeds, red dates, and so on. That was her way of nourishing the family to keep us healthy.
I miss her soups. I try to recreate many of them, but don’t always have all the ingredients (or have all afternoon!). Over the years, I’ve learned to adjust her recipes to work with local ingredients, and to shorten the cooking time for when I get home late.
One example is this Five-Spice Quinoa Soup with Mushrooms & Kale. While the ingredients are some of my more recent favorites, the flavor of the soup is influenced by all those herbal soups that my mom cooked up daily.
Our handcrafted Penang Chinese Five Spice forms the base flavor to the soup. It includes many of the warming spices my mom would extract in her soups like nutmeg, star anise and cinnamon.
For the broth, I like to add in beef broth for a heartier flavor, but feel free to use mushroom broth for a vegetarian version. To add even more richness to the broth, I simmer a mix of mushrooms – in this case, cremini and shiitake. Having homemade herbal soup as just a side dish to a larger meal only happens these days when I visit home. When I have less than an hour to cook after work, I always turn the soup into the main course.
If I have some pre-cooked quinoa in the refrigerator (I like to cook up a big batch on Sunday nights to use during the week), I add that right into the soup to make it a meal. I also sometimes add in shredded chicken or tofu to give the soup some extra protein.
When the Five-Spice Quinoa Soup with Mushrooms & Kale is all done, finish it with a few drops of toasted sesame oil and a generous dash of freshly ground black pepper.
It’s a tasty, nourishing, modern Asian-style soup that you can enjoy at home this fall and winter.