Probably the most simple soup of them all is the pork tofu soup. All it consists of are boiled pork bones and tofu, although the bones must be boiled for a few hours or longer. Unknown origin, this is probably my mom's own concoction when ingredients are low in the house. A great soup to make when you are looking for something very simple and light on the stomach, but also very heart warming. The tender meat from the baby back ribs should fall apart from the bone. The tofu remains soft and intact, and pairs perfectly with the dark soy paste mixed with fresh minced garlic dipping sauce. For a more filling meal, noodles may be added to complete this satisfying broth. The three main flavors of pork, tofu, soy sauce, garnished with some cilantro and green onions blend so well together that you'll be wanting more before you know it.
Ingredients (serves 6)
BROTH Pork leg bones (2 1/2 lbs) Pork baby back ribs (1 lb) Tofu (hard) Soy paste White Vinegar (1 Tbs) Water (12 cups)
GARNISH Cilantro Green onions (chopped) Black pepper Garlic (minced)
Bean thread noodles, or your choice
The most essential part of the soup. Make sure you get BIG fresh pork leg bones. The more bones the more flavor, but 2.5 lbs should suffice for at least 6 servings. Meat on the bones also adds to the flavor.
Pork baby back ribs, the main protein of the broth. This is about 1.5 lbs which also should be enough for 6 servings; one rib per person. This particular set was bought at the 168 Asian market.
Drop the bones only (not the ribs), into a vat of cold water and let it rest for 5 minutes or longer. This will draw out some blood to help cleanse it. To get a clear broth, we have to parboil it first.
Turn up heat to high and let it boil for about 3-4 minutes. You'll see a lot of scum form.
After boiling for a few minutes, turn off the stove and remove the boiling pot. Dump all the contents in a large strainer over the sink. Now it's time to rinse and clean! With cold water, rub each bone until you remove all the scum from it. Also clean the pot if you are going to be using the same one, otherwise put it aside and grab another clean pot and fill it with 12 cups of cold water. Re-add the bones back into the pot with the cold water and add a tablespoon of vinegar. This will draw out the minerals from the bone when it boils. Set the heat to high.
While the pot is heating up, cut the hard tofu into 8 pieces shown above. You can cut it however you like, but I like the triangles. Also, rinse it with tap water just to rid it of any impurities.
Right as the stock begins to boil, add the baby back ribs and let it boil for another 2-3 minutes. You will see some scum form and remove it with a skimmer/regular spoon. Add all the tofu into the stock once most of the scum is gone and the water level should be just above everything. Once it begins to boil again, turn down the heat to about low/medium so the stock is at a light boil and cover the pot. Leave it lightly boiling for at least 2 hours. 4 to 5 hours is ideal.
At this point, some of the broth should have evaporated and the water line should be a bit lower. This is a very simple broth so the flavor will probably still be a bit bland. Add salt to taste. If it is still too bland for your liking, continue to boil without the lid on to condense more of the soup. Remember, the soup should be a bit bland because some of the flavor will come with the soy sauce dip.
If you are looking out for your cholesterol, put the pot in the fridge over night and a layer of fat will form on the surface. Gently remove the layer with a spoon if you prefer. However, the fat does give it some flavor so I suggest not removing it all.
The Dipping Sauce
Soy paste shown on the left. Pour some in a small saucer. Mince about 1-2 garlic cloves and add that to the soy paste.
For a more fulfilling meal, use the noodles to the left. You can usually find it at any Asian market. If you can't find this particular brand, pick noodles that are smooth and slippery in texture. Something like Udon noodles but less thick. For my preference, chewy noodles do not go well with this soup. The noodles should cook in about 5 minutes of boiling water but as always, see the package instructions. If you prefer a more lighter meal, I suggest using bean thread noodles shown on the right, also found at your typical Asian market. Bean thread noodles cook in about 20 seconds of boiling water. This keeps the soup light and pairs well with another entree.
Pour 3-4 ladles full of soup into a bowl with cooked noodles. I find 2 tofu wedges and one baby back rib is the perfect amount. Sprinkle chopped (or thinly sliced) green onions, black pepper, and cilantro on top, and serve with a side of the dipping sauce. Enjoy!