Meatless Monday: Hot and sour lime soup

Green is the color of spring, growth, and spicy hot and sour lime soup.

By , Megan Fizell

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    Hot and sour lime soup has fresh flavors of lemongrass and bamboo shoots and made meaty with tofu and shiitake mushrooms.
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This post is part of Feasting on Art's The Colour Project.

When considering the color green, there are a number of connotations that are promptly conjured; green is the color of money and wealth, through which one can become "green with jealously." Likewise, it is the color of nature, growth, and life and one can have a "green thumb."

It is within the secret green porcelain of China, called mi se meaning "mysterious colour," that the two connotations of the colour intersect. Mi se was produced in the 9th and 10th centuries in China and was reserved for only the Emperor to see – let alone use – and the porcelain was so secretive that first verified example was not discovered until 1987.

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The porcelain was more valuable than gold and silver although its popularity "stemmed partly from the Chinese tendency to mythologise art, in order to appreciate it better (1)." The green color of mi se was derived from a small amount of iron in the glaze and the porcelain itself was obtained from nature. Mi se "comes from the mountains – from their earth and their forests. The wood was used for firing…and the clay was used for the body of the porcelain. But the two together – as wood ash and kaolin – were also used for the glaze that makes up its delicate skin and jade-like colour (2)." This green porcelain of the earth represented the pureness of nature yet was an elusive commodity that embodied the wealth power of the Chinese elite.

Born in 1900, Lin Fengmian began his artistic education as a self-taught pupil with his formal studies commencing, after a move to France, at the Dijon National Academy of Fine Arts in 1920. While in Europe, Fengmian travelled to Berlin and was introduced to the northern European painting movement which contributed to his interest in the combination of Eastern and Western aesthetic concepts. Still Life was completed at the end of Fengmian’s life and most likely features a small vignette from his own home in Hong Kong. Although he worked within the language of Western visual culture, his work is uniquely Chinese through the use of the traditional materials of ink and rice paper. Unique to his art is the square format and bright colours and by painting within the Western aesthetic, Fengmian’s work is comprehensible to international viewers.

Hot and sour lime soup

Yield: 6 servings

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 green chili, de-seeded and minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 cups vegetable stock
1 stalk lemongrass, quartered and crushed
2 dried kaffir lime leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1 packet egg noodles
1 block firm tofu, cut into cubes
1/3 cup re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms, cut into strips
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
2 large eggs
Small bunch fresh cilantro
3 stalks green onion, finely sliced

In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Stir fry the chili, ginger, garlic and lime zest for 1 minute before adding the lime juice and brown sugar. Swirl around the bottom of the pot for about 30 seconds and add the vegetable stock. Cut the lemongrass into quarters and smash with the side of a knife. Stir the soup well well and add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass stalk, and soy sauce. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat to develop the flavors.

After the soup has reduced slightly and the flavors have become concentrated, remove the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Add in the bamboo shoots, egg noodles, firm tofu and mushrooms. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, until the noodles are soft.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a small bowl. Add the rice wine vinegar and dried chili flakes to the soup and begin to swirl the broth. In a small stream, pour the egg mixture into the soup, carefully stirring to keep the tofu from breaking apart. Once the egg is incorporated, add the cilantro and green onion and serve immediately. This dish is best consumed right after making, otherwise the tofu will break apart and become soggy.

Megan Fizell deconstructs fine art into recipes at Feasting On Art.

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