pretend soup

pretend soup

We’ve all been there, someone puts an earworm of a dinner suggestion your way and the only cure it is to make it–or fake it.

Last week Shanna became the inspiration for this meal. She queried for vegetarian-friendly ideas for some root vegetables. The conversation drifted to a delicious sounding Thai coconut milk soup. It made me hungry. However, our pantry was bare and I didn’t think Amtrak would get me to Shanna’s in time for dinner. I didn’t have coconut milk or most any of the other key ingredients for a proper soup on hand. With some creative substitutions I came up with a quick and easy meal that was delicious, even if it just pretended to be a thai coconut soup.

As a warning: I cook by taste and feel. I don’t often measure exactly for cooking. Also, I am currently immersed in writing knitting patterns. This recipe has been proofed for basic coherency, but not tech edited or test cooked. My go-to cookbook is The Flavor Bible so my notes for this are quite condensed: make rice, bake tofu until crispy, make mirepoix, flavor with OJ, chile, and lemongrass substitute, just before serving add in crispy tofu and dairy. Don’t worry, I’ve written out more detailed instruction below.

Pretend Soup
serves 2
dairy, vegetarian, gluten-free


  • rice
  • 1 block tofu
  • 2 TBS oil
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced
  • dried mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced/diced small
  • 1 chile pepper, seeded, de-ribbed, and diced fine. (unless you like it spicy, then allow spicy parts)
  • 1 TBS fresh ginger, minced/diced small
  • 1 tsp dry ginger (can sub 1 TBS if your dry ginger is as old as mine!)
  • 1 TBS agave syrup (can substitute sugar)
  • double shot of OJ
  • 1 TBS lime juice
  • milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream (or half-and-half)
  • 1 small container plain yogurt
  • salt
  • pepper

psg’s lemongrass substitution, modification of substitution found at Let’s talk – Let’s share. In small bowl mix to combine mint, agave, and lime.



  • Start rice using your favorite method. I love my rice cooker.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  • Slice tofu thin (1/4 inch) and pat dry with kitchen towel.
  • Sprinkle oil with some salt and dry ginger.
  • Lay tofu in single layer on sheet.
  • Sprinkle top of tofu with some salt and dry ginger.
  • Place in oven for 15-20 minutes. Check after 15 minutes … you are looking for a nice golden brown.
  • In a soup pot, heat over low to medium heat start cooking down your carrot, celery, and onion. After a few minutes toss in garlic and some ginger.
  • Cook until vegetables have softened but do not allow to burn.
  • Check on tofu, if nicely golden, flip and cook for 15-20 more minutes.
  • Add as much chile as you are comfortable with. Since this has dairy, the milk soaks up much of the heat.
  • Add in OJ. and reduce heat to low.
  • If it looks too dry add in a shot or two of water.
  • Toss in psg’s lemongrass substitute (mint, lime, and agave).
  • Allow flavors to meld, either on very low (adding in more shots OJ or water as you desire) or with heat off. It depends on how ready your tofu is and how soon you plan to serve the meal.
  • Take tofu out of oven and slice into small strips.

    Just before serving:

  • Add cut tofu strips into pot.
  • Add remaining fresh ginger (if any is left).
  • Add dairy. I started with the yogurt, then added the heavy cream, and thinned with (skim) milk. Warm until just heated through.
  • Serve over rice with as much or little soup as desired.


Lesson from writing up this recipe: I measure with shot glasses, that’s about all they ever get used for. I also like to toss things into pots. I am not a fan of coconut, but I’m not sure it was missing in this recipe.