Every culture has a dish that is a careful blend of ingredients and / or a demonstration of technique or skill. Curries, paella, roti or machboos, bouillabaisse and sushi – all fit into these 2 categories. Some dishes even require a blend of different items to create a single ingredient which is then used to make the dish. Sofrito, for instance, is one such ingredient.
Baking is all about specifics and skill. Timing, weights and measures. It’s alchemy at its best.
This post isn’t about these type of foods. It’s about a more wild, ad hoc approach to cooking. There is an abandon that springs forth from throwing things together into a pot and waiting for the results. The only requirement is an understanding of each ingredient – which is the most dense – which will take the longest to cook, and which one just needs to breathe the heat for a moment for it to be done. And of course how the flavours work together.
One day last year, when we were all in lock-down, and going to the grocery store was just too much drama, I realised one evening I didn’t have enough of any one thing to make a proper meal. Not only that – it was chilly and I felt like having soup.
The ingredients that I could pull together were:
- 1 carrot (which had seen better days)
- 1 smallish Japanese sweet potato quite a few weeks old
- 1 potato bought at the same time as the Japanese sweet potato (and 1 small red skinned potato)
- 2 boneless chicken thighs
- 2 handfuls of spinach
- 1/3 cup English peas found at the bottom of the freezer in a bag held shut with a rubber band.
- Oh! And an onion
- (Other things I used for flavour were soy sauce, fish sauce. I added ginger, and gochujang which I always keep in the fridge)
Just a bunch of mostly not-so-fresh ingredients. But in this improvised approach to food, whatever goes! (Note: this turned out to be a hearty soup so more robust root veggies work best.)
Once I cut everything up, it ended up looking like a lot.
1. Dice and saute the onion in some sesame oil. You can add ginger at this point if you have it.
2. Dice and cook chicken thighs in the onions and ginger.
3. Add a healthy amount of gochujang, some soy-sauce and fish sauce.
4. Add enough water to cook the ingredients (quite a bit, cause I love broth).
5. Next comes the Japanese sweet potato cubes (wait about 7 mins)
6. Regular potato cubes (wait a little before next ingredient)
7. Carrots (wait about 3 minutes)
8. Add about 1/2 OR 1 cup of kimchi (which I ran my knife though) depending on how much you have of what you feel like having. Then add the peas.
(I add extra rice wine vinegar at this point cause I like the extra sour flavour. No rice wine vinegar? Add some lemon juice.)
9. BUT the absolute best part about this soup is the little chewy dumplings. In Guyana, we add these dumplings to soup. It’s basically flour, salt and water mixed into a very sticky consistency – or what my mom calls a “droopy” consistency. You can prepare it between adding ingredients (between steps 5 and 6).
Five minutes before the soup is done, dip a spoon into the broth and then scoop a little dough onto the spoon and it will slide right off the spoon into the soup. Repeat till the top of the pot is covered with these little dumplings. They cook really fast.
10. Add 2-3 handfuls of spinach.
P.S The second time I made this soup, I didn’t have a Japanese sweet potato so I added butternut squash instead. The sweetness of the sweet potato / butternut squash balances the sour of the kimchi really well.
Call it what you want. Kitchen Sink soup. Chewy Dumpling soup. Kimchi Sour-Spicy soup. What ever you call it, it’s really easy and a lot of fun to make!