Vietnamese Spinach Soup — Canh Rau Mồng Tơi
One of my favorite soups growing up was a green one that my mom used to make about once a week. I call it a “green” one because up until about a year ago, I had no idea what the english word for the leaves we used for the soup were called. They were a vibrant yet earthy green color, were extremely tender, and grew on vines close to the ground which necessitated washing the bejeezus out of them before cooking lest you find yourself with a gritty soup.
Known as malabar in English or rau mồng tơi in Vietnamese, this succulent spinach is usually found year round in most asian supermarkets and is pretty high in vitamins and low in calories. I know…something that’s delicious AND good for you? Holy cow! Did I mention that it’s pretty easy to prepare? Probably the 2nd thing I learned how to master in my youth, it’s easy, hard to mess up, and does well with some tweaks and enhancements. If I’m feeling particularly health conscious, I’ll throw in some tofu too. I know…stop the presses.
The soup itself reminded me of a lighter version of gumbo…indeed, when cut, the leaves and vines have the same thick oozy properties that okra has. When preparing, you prepare the broth and then throw in the malabar at the last moment…allowing it to cook further only until the broth has come to a boil again. This yields a soup that still full of tender, amazing malabar and allows it to thicken the broth just slightly giving you a fresh, light soup that has some body to it.
My favorite way to have this soup is either by itself or served over a small helping of rice with a bunch of my family and friends. As far as comfort foods go in our household, this is one of the top 5! 🙂
Canh Rau Mồng Tơi
As envisioned by TastyDesu
1/2lb pork belly, finely minced/ground**
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
5 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 1.5 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Thoroughly wash malabar in a large basin or sink to remove any remnants of sand. Remove any old looking leaves that have holes or any browned edges and discard. Chop malabar, leaves, vines, and all, into about 1/4 – 1/2 inch chiffonade. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just want to cut the leaves and vines down to manageable pieces. Set aside in a bowl and prepare broth.
In a large pot, heat oil over high heat until shimmering. Saute ground or minced pork belly until no longer pink and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add in water with heat still on high and deglaze the pan, make sure to get up any browned bits of goodness!
Season broth with salt, sugar, and pepper to taste and bring to boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer about 15-20 minutes. Increase heat to high and bring broth back up to a rolling boil and add in malabar and tofu. Stir. Allow the soup to come to a boil again, then immediately remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper again to taste.
**I usually use shrimp and prepare the soup base as I did for banh canh tom, but I happened to have some pork belly on hand at the time. Feel free to use whatever protein you’d like…this recipe is easily adaptable