Shao Shan Tenzo: Taihaku’s Tips
By Rev. Taihaku Priest
Abbot, Shao Shan Temple
Many people have asked how we make our Shao Shan soups. It is difficult to write down a recipe because it is always a little different. But I thought it would be useful to share some “secrets of the trade.” First of all, I aim at simple and yummy.
Tomato: I use our canned tomatoes and add at least an equal or greater amount of water.
Herbs: I use a huge amount of herbs, not pinches. Choose one or a combination of two: parsley and thyme, oregano and thyme, or basil. Be cautious to avoid a complicated combination of flavors which may not be compatible. I use fresh herbs when available or freshly dried herbs. Old herbs have no flavor. Fresh makes a big difference.
Get the pot slowly boiling while you prepare the veggies.
Onion: Chop and sauté with butter and salt. Add to the pot. I add onion to most of our tomato soups.
Veggies: The veggies will “melt” into the soup during the cooking. So add a bit more veggies at the beginning to allow for “meltdown.”
· Celery is strong and can easily dominate a soup. I am careful with celery because it is tricky.
· Carrots are always good with tomato.
· Rutabagas add a deep flavor.
· Potatoes will thicken the soup and add a mild layer of flavor.
· Green Peppers -- a little bit is good.
· Scallions are nice to add at the end of the soup.
· Experiment with other veggies, as you like.
Beans: I will often add some beans. Canned beans are fine.
Flavorings: This is general information which applies to lots of different types of soup.
Salt: Add some at beginning and again near the end, if needed.
Pepper: To taste.
Braggs “soy sauce”: Purchase at the Coop. I rely on this to create a broth with substantial yummy. I use a lot. So pour it in slowly, tasting broth as you go along. This is salty. Consider this when you add plain salt to the soup. This is an important ingredient.
Butter: I will put in a nice chunk. Don’t be shy. It is also a yummy factor.
Garlic: Don’t forget the garlic and be generous.
Sesame oil: In some soups I will use a little bit of sesame oil to get a chicken flavor. I use this sparingly and in various types of soup.
Nutritional yeast: Purchase at the Coop in the bulk food section. This gives a rich meaty flavor. Especially good if you want a hearty stew-type soup.
Hot pepper: Sometimes fun. Be cautious.
So now you cover the pot and simmer. It should be a slow happy simmer with little bubbles. You don’t want a high rolling boil or all the flavor escapes into the steam and the veggies will disintegrate. You don’t want a boring limp boil either. So find the happy place and let it cook until the veggies are soft, but still have shape and texture. The middle way.
Garnish: The final professional touch on the top at the time of serving: fresh grated Romano cheese, chopped scallion, or a bit of fresh herbs.
Use what is available. We find that it is difficult to make a small soup. We freeze extra soup for another day.
Experiment and enjoy with a big dollop of gratitude.