Lentil Oriental Soup
1 package dried lentils
4 Quarts of vegetable broth, either canned or homemade
1 can of sliced water chestnuts
1/2 lb of fresh peapods, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups of diced(1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces) chinese cabbage or bok choy
1/2 cup of sliced, fresh mushrooms or for an even greater oriental touch, 1 can of straw mushrooms or 2 to 3 ounces of dried shitake mushrooms.
1/2 cup of soy sauce, use the low salt variety if you prefer
1 tsp of sesame oil
Salt to taste
1. Using a large soup or stock pot, add the broth, the soy sauce and the dried lentils. Cook over medium high heat per the directions on the lentil packaging till tender.
2. While the lentils are cooking, dice the bok choy or chinese cabbage into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces. Then cut the peapods into 1/2 inch pieces. Set both the bok choy or cabbage and the peapods aside.
3. Slice the fresh mushrooms or slightly dice the dried shitake mushrooms. If using dried mushrooms, soak in 1/2 cup cold water for ten minutes. If using canned straw mushrooms, open and drain before setting aside.
4. 5 minutes before the lentils are tender (go by the estimated cooking time on the package), add the fresh or dried (add the liquid used to reconstitute the dried into the soup) or canned mushrooms. Also add the diced bok choy or chinese cabbage and the water chestnuts.
5. Once the lentils are tender, simmer for 5 minutes more, adding the fresh peapods. Check after 5 minutes, if the peapods are “tender crisp”, shut off the heat. Check for seasoning and add salt sparingly being aware that the soy sauce is salty.
6. Just before serving, add the tsp of sesame oil and stir in or use a small drop of sesame oil in each individual bowl of soup.
Because this soup tries to mimic the fresh crisp taste and texture of chinese stir fried vegetables, it is best eaten minutes after being prepared. But just like chinese food, it is also great the next day as well.
For a different flavor if vegetarian is not an issue, you can use homemade or prepared chicken broth instead of the vegetable broth.