Spicy vegetarian soup noodles

A rich, spicy broth simmered with green onions, garlic, and ginger provides a warming and filling base for clamshell mushrooms, bok choy, and noodles. It’s topped off with grilled sweet and sour tofu to pack in a healthy dose of protein.

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This recipe is titled “vegetarian” (in fact, it’s vegan as well!), but I’m actually an enthusiastic omnivore, and enjoy eating absolutely anything and everything, meat included.

But then my boyfriend became vegetarian and I had to think a little more about what I cook and eat with him.

I won’t lie and say it was an easy transition, since I love sharing all kinds of food with my loved ones. It’s even harder since most of the food I cook at home is Chinese, and a lot of Chinese cooking uses meat or meat-based sauces. If I wanted to continue sharing homemade meals with my boyfriend, I would need to be flexible and creative – thus, these vegetarian soup noodles were born.

Honestly, these noodles are so good meat lovers won’t even know they’re missing anything (I can confirm, as a meat eater). The spices, ginger, and garlic add an irresistible kick, and the sweet and sour tofu adds protein and flavor. So if you’re a vegetarian, trying to eat less meat, or have a vegetarian you love in your life, then this recipe is made for you! 

Creating a flavorful broth without meat stock

The tricky thing about soup noodles, and the reason why Chinese noodles traditionally use a meat base, is that meat-based stock just packs a huge flavor punch. The fatty, umami flavor is really easy to get from boiling chicken, beef, or pork, and you won’t achieve quite the same effect with just store-bought vegetable broth. To add an oomph,  this recipe does the following:

  • Simmer garlic and ginger in chili oil before adding vegetable stock. This will infuse your soup with fragrance and flavor
  • Boil green onions in the stock for extra richness while prepping other ingredients
  • Add a generous dash of Shaoxing rice cooking wine, which you can find at your local Asian grocery store, or on Amazon. This stuff is amazing and my go-to for Chinese cooking. If you don’t have this readily available, you don’t need it for this recipe. However, if you can get your hands on it, I think it makes a difference.

Most of the time will be spent on prep work, like chopping garlic and ginger, washing the mushrooms and bok choy, and grilling tofu. While prepping, you can spend time parallel processing by boiling noodles and simmering your soup. After that, it’s a matter of quickly bringing everything together into a delicious and fragrant noodle soup. The ingredient list looks extensive, but you’ll find it’s the same ingredients repeated for the different components of these noodles.

Spicy vegetarian soup noodles

A rich, spicy broth simmered with green onions, garlic, and ginger provides a warming and filling base for clamshell mushrooms, bok choy, and noodles. It's topped off with grilled sweet and sour tofu to pack in a healthy dose of protein.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword noodles, spicy, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

Soup base

  • 2 tsp chili oil
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (more to taste if needed)
  • 2 tbsp rice cooking wine (optional)

Sweet & sour tofu

  • 16 oz firm tofu (1 packet)
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp rice cooking wine (optional)
  • 4 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp water

Noodles & Vegetables

  • 2 head bok choy
  • 2 oz clamshell mushrooms
  • 3 oz Chinese wheat noodles

Instructions

  • Prep noodles according to package instructions, making sure to slightly undercook. My noodles take 9-11 minutes to boil, so I cook them for 8 minutes. Strain and set aside.
  • While noodles are boiling, prep ingredients – mince garlic (about 3 cloves) and ginger, chop green onions, peel and wash bok choy, and separate and wash clamshell mushrooms. Make sure to save green onion heads.

Soup base

  • In mediun pot, on high heat, simmer garlic and ginger with chili oil and vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and beginning to brown
  • Reduce heat and VERY carefully and slowly pour in a half cup of vegetable broth. Be prepared for the oil to spatter and sizzle since it's mixing with liquid. Pour in remaining broth and turn heat to medium
  • Add soy sauce, cooking wine, and green onion heads. Taste and add additional soy sauce or salt if desired. Add chili flakes. Leave to simmer on low – medium heat while prepping tofu

Sweet & sour tofu

  • Thinly slice tofu block in slices about 1/4 in. thick. You should have about 12 slices
  • In medium pan, heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in pan on high heat and grill tofu until each side is brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add more oil as needed. Remove tofu from pan and place to the side
  • On high heat in same pan, simmer ginger and garlic in 1 tbsp vegetable oil until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes
  • Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, and cooking wine into pan on medium heat. If not using cooking wine, replace with water. I would recommend pre-mixing this in a cup so you're not rushing to measure ingredients at this point. Add sugar into pan and stir to dissolve. Bring to simmer.
  • Mix corn starch into water until dissolved and add to pan. The sauce will begin to thicken and if you drag your spatula through, it should part and come back together slowly.
  • Add grilled tofu back to pan and toss so that each slice is lightly and evenly coated in the sauce. Remove from pan and set aside

Bring it all together

  • Place peeled and washed bok choy in soup base and raise heat to high. Boil bok choy until tender, about ~3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and boil for an additional minute. Add noodles and boil for an additional minute
  • Remove green onion heads and divide into two bowls. Top with tofu and garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with additional chili flakes if desired and enjoy while piping hot!

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