Today I’d like to share with you the recipe for Vegan Tamarind and Kabocha Squash Soup that I recently came up with – but before you say to yourself, ‘Those ingredients sound way too exotic!’, bear with me for a minute: I’ve got some suggestions for easy substitutions down below.
A couple weekends ago Rob and I visited Uwajimaya – the legendary Asian grocery store that has three locations in Seattle area and one in Oregon.
I was amazed to see rows upon rows of green tea, seaweed, dried mushrooms, noodles, as well as some traditional Asian ingredients I’ve never heard of before.
For a while, I’ve wanted to make tamarind soup after eating it a few times at Asian restaurants, so I made sure to find some tamarind paste brushing away the fact that I had no idea of what to do with it.
Tamarind comes from pods of a tree that grows in Asia and North Africa. The pods contain seeds and red pulp that becomes sour once it’s dried.
The pulp is widely used in Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine (you’ve probably tasted it before in hot and sour soup at Asian restaurants), plus it’s an important ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.
Tamarind pulp is loaded with vitamin C, so it’s ideal for clearing up some sinuses during fall and winter!
Once at home, I searched the internet for tips on using tamarind, as well as for some recipe inspiration.
I found out that tamarind can be used in lots of various recipes, and usually comes in blocks of paste with seeds intact, or in purified extract form.
What I had on hand was this block of tamarind paste:
To use it for my soup, I cut off about 1 Tbsp worth of tamarind paste, poured some hot water over it, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes while I was peeling and chopping vegetables.
Once tamarind was soaked, I mashed it lightly with a fork to get all of the flesh off the seeds, and then strained it into a cup making sure not to pass any seeds. The resulting extract went into the soup at step 5 below.
Another couple things I picked up at Uwajimaya were some dried shiitake mushrooms and this gorgeous kabocha squash:
Kabocha squash is all the rage among some internet foodies because of its mild, slightly nutty flavor and buttery soft texture when cooked. I used only one half of this squash for my soup.
As for dried shiitake mushrooms, I actually prefer them to the fresh kind because they are way less expensive, and can last for a long time in your pantry.
Once I started searching for the perfect recipe to combine tamarind broth and kabocha squash, I stumbled upon this recipe for Butternut Squash and Coconut Curry, but decided to rework it and make it into a more filling soup.
I omitted coconut milk completely to lower the fat content and substituted it with a larger amount of veggie broth, added some chickpeas for extra protein and fiber, skipped hot peppers because Rob and I prefer our food only mildly spicy, and used kabocha squash instead of butternut. Shiitake mushrooms were also added for texture.
Substitutions for Ingredients You Can’t Find:
In case you’re thinking that the ingredients for this soup are unattainable in your area, no need to worry!
You can easily use about 1 ½ cup of tomato sauce instead of the strained tamarind extract – you’ll have a different soup as a result, but it will be tasty anyway.
Butternut squash and kabocha can be used here interchangeably.
Shiitake can be substituted with sliced crimini mushrooms – if you choose to do so, you don’t need to soak them, but make sure to add them only in the last 5 minutes of cooking the soup.
Question for you: Have you tried tamarind or kabocha squash in other recipes? Do tell below!
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