Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Indian Chinese Sweet Corn Soup

Last week brought us weather that was positively soupy- as wet and foggy as can be. The grocery store- a mere 2 miles away- seemed like such a trek; I stayed warm and dry indoors and rummaged through the pantry for something to make for dinner. And there they were- 2 cans of cream style sweet corn. I have no memory of buying these, but everyone knows that ingredients do tend to jump into one's grocery cart when you're not looking.

Holding the cans of cream style corn led to immediate memories of the many bowls of sweet corn soup I've eaten in Indian-Chinese restaurants in India. So I made some corn soup right that minute, with bits of veggies from the crisper and the freezer.

The flavor of homemade soups can be amped up by using stock or broth instead of water. Over the years, I've tried a few different kinds of stock and settled upon using a commercial stock concentrate. It worked nicely but was definitely too salty and pretty expensive. Recently, I've started using nutritional yeast instead of stock to add savory flavor to soups.

Nutritional yeast- dry, yellow, flaky- looks more like fish food than human food. Don't confuse it with baker's yeast that is used in bread-making. The two are not interchangeable in the least. Nutritional yeast is packed with micro-nutrients and has a rich, savory, umami taste from the amino acids in the yeast. It is an acquired taste but one that we've managed to acquire very quickly. I buy nutritional yeast from the bulk bins of the local health food store.

Here's the recipe in a few simple steps; it makes 4-6 good sized servings.

Indo-Chinese Sweet Corn Soup



1. Saute:
2 tsp. oil
1/2 onion, cut in small dice
When onion is translucent, add 1 tsp. ginger garlic paste.

2. Add veggies:
1 carrot, cut in small dice
2 cups thinly shredded cabbage
1 cup frozen corn kernels
Stir for a couple of minutes on medium-high heat.

3. Make broth:
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast, stir.
2 cans cream-style corn
2 cans water
Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

4. Season:
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. vegetarian mushroom "oyster" sauce
1/2 tsp. white pepper

5. [Optional step]
Into the simmering soup, stir in 1 or 2 beaten eggs.

5. Garnish:
Minced cilantro or green onions
Sriracha sauce or chili sauce (optional)

Serve hot!
* * *

I've been reading an inspiring book this past week: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, an articulate and impassioned message to read aloud to children. I'm a lifelong book lover and V and I have been reading aloud to our child every day since she was 6 weeks old, so clearly I'm already sold on the concept. But this was still an eye-opening book for me.

Although I was told stories as a child, I was never read to (that I can remember). I just learned to read and then I read to myself. This book has wonderful, practical tips for reading aloud. Some of the things I learned:
  • You don't stop reading to a child once a child learns to read.
  • It is perfectly fine to "censor" or adapt the book to meet the needs of the child. Shorten long passages, skip boring ones, change swear words as you want to.
  • Read a book ahead of time. Gauge the emotional level and the intellectual level and make sure it fits the child.
  • Read slowly to allow the listener time to build mental pictures. I have to learn how to read aloud because my reading speed is faster than my talking speed. In general, I don't prefer to read aloud but I'm excited to do so with my little one.
  • Read funny stories, sad stories, scary stories to explore the universe of human emotions. Just enjoy the story, there is no need to interpret it, quiz the child on it, or to discuss the morals.
  • A good story is a good story. Stirring words and gorgeous pictures appeal at any age. I have to agree with it; I read and enjoy middle grade literature regularly.
I enjoyed the heart-warming stories of lives that were changed by the simple act of reading to a child, of teachers who start the day by reading aloud and find it a way to connect with the most difficult students.

The last portion is a list of books that are ideal for reading aloud. The edition I read is from 1985- quite out of date but there are many recent editions which would provide good lists as starting points. If you can get a hold of this book, please read it!

Were you read to as a child? If you have kids, do you read aloud to them? And are you enjoying any soup today? :)

34 comments:

  1. Soup looks hearty & perfect for this chilly weather. I sure know how random stuff ends up in the pantry without our knowledge ;-)
    Thanks for the tips on reading for children. I was never read to as a child, but we have read to our son since he was little. We have slacked a bit recently but your first point made me realize that we should continue doing that. Thanks again Nupur.

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    1. Pavani- There are delightful books for kids your son's age. You'll probably enjoy them just as much as he does!

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  2. I am lucky to come from a family that treasures its books and loves reading. I was read to as a child and my mother and I have been reading to my little one since he was a few weeks old. He is over 5 and still loves his nightly ritual with me or his grandmother:-)
    And I, even at the age I am, still read with pleassure,many of those books I enjoyed as a young girl. I often re-read the Little House on the Prairie books, skim through boarding school stories such as the Malory Tower series, the classics and so on. I would never want to become too cynical to read the books of my youth, especially my Enid Blytons!

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    1. Thanks for the lovely note, Amber. I too love re-reading favorite books from my childhood and I'm looking forward to discovering lots more children's lit with my daughter.

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  3. Sweet Corn soup is one of my all time childhood favorites! I have to get the nutritional yeast and try this recipe. Thank you Nupur! :-) Yes, I am making lots of soups - posole verde, 3 beans-roasted vegetable chili, minestrone, mushroom-barley and vegetable-lentil were all made recently and there's roasted corn-salmon chowder for lunch today!

    I was read to rarely as a child. Every Sunday morning my father would read aloud the story and poems from the children's section of the newspaper which I would listen to very intently. I have very fond memories of those times, more than the content of what was being read I enjoyed that special time with my father, to see his face getting animated while narrating the story, his voice modulating as the story progressed, that is what I really cherished. Even after I learned to read we continued with this sunday morning ritual because we both loved it. Other times the elders in the family or neighborhood would tell me a story completely made up or from their memory when I would request for one. I just had to select the genre (tell me a funny story/ ghost story/ story of kings/ mythology etc.) and they would oblige but it was not a bedtime ritual, it was a meal-time ritual - we were fed while being told a story or folk tale. :-) I must add, these randomly made up tales were completely customized based on my learning needs at that moment :-)) I remember being told 'khaddad Vinu - a story of a glutton named Vinu' if I displayed similar behavior or the rhyming tale of how a girl got hurt in the kitchen being careless while chopping onions or a much loved funny rhyming tale on forgetting the homework all day long while finding time for everything else. :-))

    - Priti

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    1. Priti- If you can't get the nutritional yeast or would rather not, any stock would work in this soup as well. All your soups sound wonderful!

      You reminded me that my maternal grandpa read comics to me from the Sunday papers. I still remember his merry chuckle :) And yes, the made-up stories are just as delightful as any written by a famous author. Thanks for this lovely note.

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  4. I remember my mom reading to my brother and my grandmother would read stories written in bengali to us. We read to Lil A everyday, he loves it.

    I am going to go and find some nutritional yeast this weekend when I go shopping.

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    1. Being told stories as a child leads to memories of a lifetime, doesn't it? I think you will enjoy using nutritional yeast- it is a pretty versatile ingredient.

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  5. I was going to make corn and vegetable soup today. I dont have cream style corn so I use corn starch to thicken. I have also tried oat flour. It works but the soup tastes "healthier".
    My daughter has the habit of hearing a story every night at bed time. So we invariably end up reading to her everyday. Making that habit early on did pay off.

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    1. I generally use cornstarch as a thickener too, Nikita. This time the cream style corn worked well to make a broth. That's a wonderful habit- the bed time story! We do it too, most nights.

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  6. oohh..so yummy! going to try it out soon :)
    I was never read to much as a child. English literature was something I read myself. But Marathi literature was something my mom used to read to me quite often. Marathi was my second language in school, and I was not particularly good at it (even though its my mother tongue)..So my mom was a bit distraught that I would never get to know any marathi lit..so she read to me everything from pula deshpande to shyaamchi aai and other classics. I am glad she read to me because for some reason I never got into reading marathi much. Even if I read something now, it takes me ages coz my marathi reading speed is so slow..so I tend to stick to english. Me and hubby are reading to our 4 month son quite regularly. We got some touch and feel books like pat the bunny and I read to him my favorite calvin and hobbes strips from my collection.

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    1. I'm the same way- my Marathi reading speed is dismal :( I did absolutely enjoy reading Pu La Deshpande though! Shyam chi Aai stories made me cry, they tended to be melancholy if memory serves me right.

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  7. I love Indian-Chinese sweet corn soup! Always ordered it when we went out to eat.

    Nutritional yeast has been my latest favorite. I sprinkle it on kale chips, or add to dips and stuff. It is wonderful to create creamy salad dressings as well. I imagine it tasted just great with this soup!

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    1. I've been using nutritional yeast more and more, but have yet to try it in salad dressing. Good idea!!

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  8. Btw - I have been making spinach and pumpkin soup lately. I just threw them together one day to empty my fridge and loved the outcome. Pumpkin tames the pungency of spinach and gives it creaminess. Spinach has made its way in many of my recipes I found out I was low on iron.

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    1. That combo indeed sounds wonderful!

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  9. Hi Nupur,

    First of all, I love the reading tips. No need for an interpretive quiz, indeed. Just enjoy the story. Sage words!

    I was read to as a child, and read to my children -- like you have done -- from a very young age. I agree it's even better when you keep on reading to them as they learn. Eventually my kids liked to read to me! ;)

    Now, the soup story -- I thought I was the only one who came home with unexpected jars and cans which had found their way into my cart ;) I am glad to hear the description of nutritional yeast. I've been intrigued and wanting to try it, but was a little skeptical. Now maybe I will get a small scoop and give it a shot. "Umami" was the keyword that hooked me there.

    Sweetcorn soup looks wonderful. All the best as always!

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    1. Linda- do give nutritional yeast a try. It is incredible for boosting flavor in so many dishes. I've been using it a lot lately.

      How lovely that you and the kids could read to each other!! Truly, it is the best way to promote literacy and a love for learning. My little one "reads" to the dog, flips pages and says words. Duncan listens with a serious face :D

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    2. The image of Lila reading aloud to Duncan and him listening with a serious face totally cracked me up! That is so incredibly cute! you just made my day. Lots of love & hugs to both of them. :-)

      - Priti

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  10. My mother recited nursery rhymes and Bengali verse more than stories when I was a child. She bribed me (!) to read my first full length book. It was the valley of adventure by Enid Blyton. After that first slow read I became addicted. We would take weekly trips to the library and the one thing I would be treated to is new books. I want to keep this reading tradition strong with my daughter as well. She loves the Winnie the Pooh stories and thinks she is Christopher Robin.
    That soup looks delish!
    Arpita .
    Ps read when hitler stole pink rabbit and it was excellent. Now reading the sequel.

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    1. How lovely!! Like you, books were my special gift and something I enjoyed all through my childhood- we did not have a public library. Glad you enjoyed Pink Rabbit!

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  11. Dear Nupur, What a great recipe! I can't wait to try it. It's my most mouth-watering memory from the Indo-Chinese restaurants we went to as children.

    Our son's Montessori teacher had also recommended the Read-Aloud Handbook. We have been reading to our kids for years beginning with books like Goodnight, Moon and most recently, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I don't remember being read to as a child but I do remember reading a lot from Chandamama and Phantom Comics to Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew etc. How time flies! Do they still publish Chandamama? Thanks again for the recipe- I will treasure it, I'm sure. R

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    1. R- If you try it, let me know if the recipe works for you! I think reading aloud is going to get ever more interesting as my little one grows up. I am blown away by the quality of books out there for books. Like you, I loved comics as a child and the others you mention!

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  12. I have a can of sliced peaches that jumped into my grocery cart long ago when I wasn't looking. It's still sitting in the pantry and stares accusingly at me each time I go there to retrieve something else. :)
    How I love the Indo-Chinese sweet corn soup. It is perfect food for the cold, soggy weather, for sure. Thanks for the recipe.

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    1. Ha ha, Vaishali, I am sure you can work miracles with the can of peaches, turning it into a fancy chutney/relish or something. Hope you're staying warm through the brutal cold.

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  13. I agree with all the reading pints nupur except that to read ahead ...my 10 year old is a book hungry person ..and reads all sorts of books ( May be little advanced for her age at times) I try to keep a track, but then it is almost impossible to catch up with her speed and read all the books she is reading before her. She had different sources like school library etc where I don't have access and she comes back with new names of books..so I read the reviews and do some research in internet. Only issue is that she reads only English books ..I would be glad to make her read Hindi, Bengali or Marathi books...some how I have noticed today's urban kids don't connect with books written in regional languages...

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    1. The reading ahead bit is more for when one is reading aloud, because if you read ahead you know what's coming- so you can try voices/ skip boring passages/ see if the child is the right age for the book etc.

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  14. I used to read a lot to my daughter..in German, in English, in Bengali...it was very important for me that she learn to love books. And today I am happy that she loves books and reads a book many times...finds different ways to get books. My mother used to read me too, specially bengali poems and stories by Tagore and other bengali writers. I still cherish those moments of togetherness...

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  15. Never Tried adding yeast and white pepper in the desi chinese version of this soup but will try it ! like reading your blog and the many maharashtrian recipes, love the little knitted goodies you have as ur logo. my parents are now settled in Pune

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    1. It is not baker's yeast, mind you, but nutritional yeast.

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  16. Nupur,
    So sorry - I meant to post last week right after I made the soup. Oh how Good it was. We had several meals of it (just two of us) and actually one morning for breakfast! Thanks for your writing as well. You touched my heart when you mentioned Eight Cousins by LM Alcott. I just reread that about two months ago after a 50 year hiatus, I think. I do read children's and young adult books as well as the usual suspects of adult lit. My husband and I live in a large house that is FULL of books. I can't let them go. Always willing to lend them out of course. :-) Thanks again for your blog. Cooking is my other addiction.
    Hope it warms up soon.
    blessings
    Bobbi

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    1. Thank you for this sweet note, Bobbi. I am so delighted that you enjoyed the soup! Cheers to reading lots of amazing books this year :)

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  17. hi nupur !!
    thanks for this wonderful recipe.i am very fond of indian-chinese food especially soups. they are healthy and help us to stay warm in cold weather. i have tried your recipe in my kitchen and served in a party for many peoples. this was having the nutritional yeast and you have provided the information about it which was very helpful. and you tried to make the better use of the stock which came to you unintentionally. this things also happens to us as i am living with my friends by renting a room whenever there is loss of groceries we try to use things which is the unused grocery and has been there from months unused.

    Also it is good to give childrens some knowledge apart from there text book. this reading of books by there parents in their early childhood helps them to develop their intellectual skills and memory power. this style of reading aloud books in front of them from their early childhood gives them a good moral skills and help them to know their customs and religion in many ways.

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    1. you are making food on your own that is appreciated...!!
      I think you have a good knowledge on morals and ethics which are needed for a child's development to be a successful person.
      best of luck for your cooking and please do give new recipes under this blog.

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