I’d like to say I made this soup to mark the end of National Soup Month (it’s also National Bath Safety Month, National Tubers and Dried Fruit Month, and National Thyroid Awareness Month, for those keeping track), but the truth is I had fresh bun noodles left over from bun bo hue, half a head of napa cabbage left over from the best-ever potstickers, and a whopping 0% motivation after spending most of yesterday reading “Adventures Among Ants” (a very good book, by the way) in a crowded jury room. I did not get chosen for a jury—or even called up for voir dire, for that matter—but I did have to spend many hours sandwiched between people who either smelled bad or didn’t know how to use their inside voice. A good, hearty soup was about all I had in me by 5 pm.
This basic template from this soup came from Vegan Yum Yum (my version, of course, is not vegan, but you can make it vegan if desired), but I embellished and omitted until I ended up with what both B. and I felt tasted like Korean minestrone. I realize this sounds like what fusion-hating chefs or diners would come up with as a joke, but it was actually really good. The broth was almost kimchi-like from the gochugaru (Korean pepper powder), cabbage, and rice vinegar, with tofu standing in for beans and rice noodles standing in for Italian pasta. Feel free to subtract or add in what you happen to have on hand, since that was the spirit of this soup to begin with. It makes a ton, so if you’re not into soup leftovers, you’ll probably want to cut it in half.
• 12 oz. baked tofu (I buy regular extra-firm and bake it myself by doing the same plate-weight technique I use for frying [click and scroll down to see], slicing it, and drying it out at 350 degrees, turning once after abut 20 minutes): $1.19
12 oz. 4-6 0z. bun noodles (or other rice noodles), cooked: 75 cents
• Half a head of napa cabbage (I would recommend napa or savoy for this), sliced: $1
• 1 can petite diced tomatoes (or 15 oz. of whole tomatoes, blended, if you don’t want minestrone-style chunks. Why whole tomatoes and not just pureed petite diced? This is why): 58 cents
• 1 onion, chopped: 20 cents
• 2 cloves garlic, minced: 2 cents
• 1/4 cup soy sauce: 20 cents
• 1 tsp plus more to taste gochugaru (or red pepper flakes): 3 cents
• 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar (if you don’t have seasoned, add salt and sugar to taste): 20 cents
• 6 cups beef broth (or water, if you want to make it vegan): 60 cents
• 1 T canola oil: 3 cents
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: $4.82/6 = 80 cents/serving
Heat a large soup pot with a lid over medium heat. Heat the oil, then add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds, then add the cabbage, tomatoes, tofu, vinegar, soy sauce, gochugaru or pepper, and broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until cabbage and onions are totally tender. Adjust seasonings to taste. Just before serving, add the noodles and heat through. Serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.