Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

Before I begin diving into how much I love this recipe, I feel I owe an explanation for the 2+ month bout of absence. I don't talk about my work often, but it very much intertwines with my passions and this blog. I feel so lucky to do what I love, but just like a piece of bread left in the toaster too long, I was burnt out. Don't you hate it when that happens? The bread part I mean. So frustrating. Anyway.

I spent November and December firing on all cylinders with Cooking Matters Massachusetts and finishing up my first semester teaching part-time at a local university. I even picked up a little consulting work on the weekends, which left zero time for cooking, much less for blogging. And after preparing meals in my Cooking Matters classes and being on social media for my teaching gig, I had just about had it with homemade meal preparation and the Internet. I was starting to resent being in my own kitchen and found the quickest things I could assemble with the smallest bit of preparation. If I had to wash one more dish or read one more article about how social media and culture intersect, I thought I might just cry. I could also feel myself being more and more unproductive. I was not finding joy in the pastimes I previously turned to when I was stressed or needed an outlet. I even stopped reading my favorite blogs (gasp).

I spent most of the holiday break eating leftovers that I took from family holiday parties and spent time at home playing with my new dog Honey. I had to unplug from the computer and the kitchen. I worked on some projects that had eluded me all year, including tidying up my finances, creating annual family photo albums and cleaning closets. And before I knew it, I was back into the swing of things before I could even have another moment to breathe.

And now it's nearing the end of February and all I have to show for it is one post about soup. I have an old bowl of tabbouleh and an undercooked pot of lentils in the fridge but they didn't make the blog cut for one unappealing reason or another. I should probably throw those out once I'm done here.

I have to admit, the real-time allure that blogs once monopolized has now been overshadowed with other, more instantaneous tools like Twitter and Instagram. Everyone wants to be entertained by pretty pictures. No one has time for the arduous process of sitting down and reading a 250-word blog post without the impatient manic thought of "for-goodness-sake-just-get-to-the-recipe-already."

But after my experience making this new recipe, my urge to share this with you resurged and all I could think about was blogging it. So I guess blogging is not totally dead. I had this great little comparison about how the death of this blog was about as close as that near-Earth asteroid, but I can't quite put into words its cleverness. You get the point.

I understand that this is probably a pathetic little soliloquy I'm reciting; after all, who follows a blog after two months of silence? But then again I am reminded of why I write this blog in the first place. No, not to impress others with my exquisite culinary techniques, exceptional clean eating behaviors or dazzling photography. Go ahead, tell me again how awesome you think I am.

Nope, it's for me. To practice my writing, refine my style, enjoy my food and catalog experiences. (It also wouldn't hurt to get a book deal one day that sets me up for retirement. Thought I'd throw that out there, you know, in case you know a guy.) But most of all it should be fun. Substantial monetary income would be nice too, but MOST OF ALL IT SHOULD BE FUN. So I'm going to try to figure out how I can make this fun again.

I figured the first way to do that is to step out of my comfort zone and make something totally foreign. I've never eaten hot and sour soup before. I had no idea what to expect. The only Asian soup I've eaten are miso soup and wonton soup. Bland, tasteless broths that lend no excitement to the palate. So when the first bite assaulted my taste buds with a kick of spicy and a tang of of the sour broth, it was like a veil had been lifted. Hopefully this kick-you-in-the-mouth spicy tangy soup will be just the thing I need to find my passion for blogging again.

Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup
(makes 8 hearty servings)
Inspired by eatingwell.com's Shiitake and Noodle Hot and Sour Soup

3 oz udon noodles (I used Eden brown rice udon)
6 1/3 cups water
2 carrots, 1/4"dice
2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cups vegetable broth (I used Kitchen Basics unsalted)
12 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and no stems
1 - 14oz package of extra firm tofu, cubed
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon chile-garlic sauce
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
chopped scallions for garnish

In 6 cups of water boil udon noodles according to the instructions (about 8 minutes). While boiling add in carrots and cabbage. Once done boiling, lower temperature to medium and add pepper, mushrooms, tofu, vegetable broth, vinegars, soy sauce, chile-garlic sauce and ginger. In a separate bowl, mix corn starch, sesame oil and remaining 1/3 cup of water. Add mixture to the soup and bring to a boil for 5-10 minutes, until you see broth thicken slightly. Garnish with scallions and extra chile-garlic sauce to taste.
And if you made it to the end of this post, well, good for you. Now you can follow my less breathy rumblings on Twitter (@EatItTweetIt) and Instagram (@JessicaCaouette). One hundred and forty characters or less and I promise pretty pictures of green smoothies and candids of my pets.

Question of the Day: Are you abandoning blogs for more instantaneous social media?


  1. yay! you're back! i'll read you >140 word essays any time xoxo

    1. Ditto. Love your blog and your writing and that soup looks pretty good too! I love Instagram but I still love reading blogs even if I barely have time to write my own.

  2. Lovely to see you back! I've been there too, my friend. Many, many times. :)

  3. I'm still following :) This soup looks fantastic!! And so worth a post! I definitely have way less time in my life for blogs lately, but I'm trying... Which is why I'm reading this at 12:30 a.m. :)