This Taiwanese Thick Mushroom Soup is a vegan variation of a popular market and street-side dish in central and southern Taiwan, known as Rou Geng. We fell in love with this starchy, translucent soup on a recent trip to the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung.
Traditionally Rou Geng is not vegan, since it contains hand-shaped elongated boiled morsels (or dumplings) of pork and seafood paste. The thick starchiness of this soup is characteristic of the textural significance in Taiwanese cuisine. The starch itself doesn’t add flavor, but rather it provides a satisfying heartiness that appeals to the Taiwanese palate. Packed with julienned vegetables and flavored with a dash of Taiwanese black vinegar and white pepper; this soup may seem reminiscent of Hot and Sour soup – but with noticeably more neutral flavors.
Our vegan Taiwanese Thick Mushroom Soup combines shiitake and enoki mushrooms with julienned carrots, chopped napa cabbage, cubed silken tofu and a garnish of cilantro. The soup base is layered with the flavors of Taiwanese black vinegar, white pepper, garlic and ginger before being thickened with tapioca starch.
If you love, or are just discovering, Taiwanese cuisine; an essential ingredient for your pantry is Taiwanese black vinegar. We like to use, and recommend, Kong Yen Vegetarian Black Vinegar.
Taiwanese Black Vinegar is a fragrant, richly flavored and slightly sweet and tart vinegar. It’s more flavorful and less pungent than rice vinegar and is a common condiment in Taiwan. I highly recommend the vegan-friendly Taiwanese brand Kong Yen. Black vinegar is available in most Asian markets in the U.S. Even small Asian grocery stores will often have at least one brand.
This comforting Taiwanese Thick Mushroom Soup is equally satisfying when served over rice or noodles. It can also be enjoyed on its own.
Taiwanese Thick Mushroom Soup
2-3 servings, serve with cooked rice or noodles
- 1 tbsp neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower
- 1 medium garlic clove (6g), peeled and finely minced
- 12g (2 tsp) ginger, peeled and finely minced
- 60g fresh shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot (~100g); peeled, julienned and cut into 2 inch strips
- 150g napa cabbage, ends removed and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp Taiwanese black vinegar, preferably Kong Yen vegetarian
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- ¾ tsp salt, plus more to taste
- 100g enoki mushrooms, roots removed and cut in half
- 170g (6 oz) extra firm silken tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 237ml (1 cup) vegetable or vegan chicken broth, such as Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base
- 475ml (2 cups) water
- 30g (5 tbsp) tapioca starch/flour*(see notes for cornstarch substitution)
- 150ml (⅔ cup) cold water (for the starch)
- Cilantro for garnish, roughly chopped
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat and sautée garlic and ginger for 1 minute, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Add the cabbage, carrots, shiitake followed by (237ml, 1 cup) stock, (475ml, 2 cups) water, salt, and white pepper and stir to combine. Add more salt to taste. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low heat and simmer for about 12-14 minutes until cabbage is tender. Skim off any foam that forms. Add enoki mushrooms and silken tofu; gently stir to combine and warm for 1 minute.
In a medium bowl, gradually add (150ml) cold water and 2 tbsp black vinegar to the starch and stir until smooth with no lumps. Slowly pour the starch mixture into the soup to thicken. Using a wire whisk or long chopsticks, gently stir to incorporate. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken, then remove from heat and serve. To serve, ladle the soup over cooked rice or noodles; or eat on its own. Garnish with a generous dash of Taiwanese black vinegar and a sprinkling of cilantro.
We weighed the ingredients using a digital scale for better accuracy and write our recipes in grams.
Advance Preparation: Best served the same day, but may be refrigerated in a covered container overnight. In the fridge it will become gelatinous, but will return to its original consistency when reheated.
Starch: I highly recommend tapioca starch, also known as tapioca flour. I tested a number of different starches (e.g., potato starch, katakuriko, cornstarch) for flavor, color and consistency. Cornstarch was the closest alternative, and may be used in a pinch.
Variations: Julienned bamboo shoots are often used in this dish but I opted to exclude them from the recipe since I was unable to find fresh bamboo at my local market. In addition to shiitake and enoki, other varieties of fresh mushrooms and julienned daikon make a nice addition to this soup.