TOFU AND CILANTROBean threads are made from mung beans, the same beans that the Chinese use to make bean sprouts. They become transparent when cooked, and therefore are sometimes called silver noodles, cellophane noodles or glass noodles. Usually they are soaked in hot water until they are soft; this takes about 5 to 15 minutes, depending on their thickness. Next they are cooked in boiling water for about 2 minutes; to save time, you can cook them directly in the soup, as in this recipe.If you don’t have bean threads, substitute thin rice noodles or rice sticks, which are soaked and cooked the same way. If you don’t have bok choy, you can substitute spinach.If you prefer a soup with chicken instead of a vegetarian one, replace the tofu with 280 to 340 grams diced boneless skinless chicken and cook it in the broth and water with the pepper flakes for about 10 minutes or until just tender before adding the remaining ingredients.3 cups vegetable or chicken broth (total 31⁄2 cups)1⁄4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes1 cup shredded carrots2 cups shredded bok choy or other Chinese cabbage300 gr. to 350 gr. firm or medium tofu, cut in 2-cm. cubes100 gr. very thin bean threads1⁄4 cup fresh coriander leavesSalt to tasteBring broth and 2 cups water to a simmer with pepper flakes in a medium saucepan. Add carrots, bok choy, tofu and bean threads. Cook over low heat about 2 minutes or until bean threads are just translucent. Stir in cilantro. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve using tongs and a ladle.Makes 4 servings.
MUSHROOMS AND BABY CORN WITH MINT AND HOT PEPPERSFor these Thai-flavored quick-braised vegetables, you can use fresh basil instead of mint leaves.If you have a can of straw mushrooms or other Chinese mushrooms, you can substitute it for some of the fresh mushrooms, or simply add them to the dish as well.11⁄2 to 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil225 gr. medium-size mushrooms, halved2 fresh red or green jalapeno or other hot peppers, halved lengthwise2 large garlic cloves, minced1⁄2 cup vegetable or chicken broth1 cup frozen peas2 tablespoons soy sauce350 gr. to 450 gr. canned baby corn, rinsed4 green onions, cut in 7.5-cm. pieces1 cup whole fresh mint leavesHeat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add mushrooms and hot peppers and saute over medium heat, stirring, about 3 minutes or until mushrooms brown lightly. Stir in garlic, followed by broth, peas and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 3 minutes or until peas are tender. Add corn, green onions and mint leaves and heat gently for 2 minutes. Taste, and add more soy sauce if needed. Let stand, covered, until ready to serve.Makes 4 servings.
STEAMED JASMINE RICEPrepared the traditional Chinese way, rice is cooked only with water; the salt and other seasonings come from the stews and sautes served with the rice, or from separately served condiments.If you don’t have jasmine rice, use long-grain white rice. Steam it with only 3 cups water.With brown rice, use 3 cups water and increase the cooking time to 35 minutes.11⁄2 cups jasmine rice33⁄4 cups waterpinch of salt (optional)Combine rice and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes or until rice is just tender and water is absorbed. Let stand, covered, for 5 to 15 minutes before serving.Makes 4 servings.GREEN SALAD WITH WATER CHESTNUTS AND SESAME DRESSINGWater chestnuts add a pleasing flavor and texture to this Asian-inspired salad. If you don’t have any, substitute thin, small slices of kohlrabi or of mild radishes. For extra pizzazz, sprinkle the salad with toasted sesame seeds just before serving.2 to 3 tsp. Asian sesame oil, or more to taste11⁄2 tsp. rice vinegar, or more to tastesalt and freshly ground pepper2 cups romaine lettuce, torn in bite-size pieces2 cups coarsely chopped iceberg lettuce1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup fine shreds of red cabbage (optional)1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup shredded carrot (optional)225 gr. canned water chestnuts, rinsed, drained and sliced1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed (optional)In a small bowl whisk sesame oil with vinegar, salt and pepper. Mixlettuces in a serving bowl, add dressing and toss until greens aremoistened. Add cabbage, carrot, water chestnuts and bean sprouts andtoss again. Taste and adjust seasoning.Makes 4 servings.Faye Levy is the author of Thirty Low-fat Meals in 30 Minutes and Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.