Kiem Recipe (Vietnamese Vegetarian Pumpkin Soup)


This year, the Asian New Year celebration (called Tết in Vietnamese) will happen during the first week of February, according to the Lunar calendar. I’ve mentioned in the past that, traditionally, you’re required to eat vegetarian food (ăn chay) on the last day of the previous year and the first day of New Year.

Today, I’m sharing a vegan dish called kiểm that’s a staple during the celebration. The dish is a sweet, savory soup made of pumpkin, bananas, coconut milk, mung beans, lotus seeds, wood ear mushrooms, sweet potatoes, ginger, tofu and raw peanuts. This is not a very common dish and it’s only made for the celebration. If you know its origin, please let me know in the feedback section.

1. Info for Kiem Recipe (Vietnamese Vegetarian Pumpkin Soup)

  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Servings: 10
  • Calories: 124kcal

2. Ingredients for Kiem Recipe (Vietnamese Vegetarian Pumpkin Soup)

  • 1½ quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 2 Burro bananas (chuối xiêm)
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin (or butternut squash), diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 20 dried lotus seeds
  • ¼ cup wood ear mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1½ tablespoons mung beans
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, torn into thirds
  • ¼ cup freshly grated ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons salt, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated palm sugar, to taste
  • 1 sheet rolled tofu skin, thawed and cut into strips
  • 1 (18-ounce) package silken soft tofu
  • 2 tablespoons raw peanuts, shelled
  • 1 king oyster mushroom (see tips), diced
  • ½ cup button mushrooms, quartered lengthwise
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked

3. Directions:

  1. Cooking the mung beans: Wash and rinse the mung beans thoroughly in several water baths (about three times), discarding any that are floating or odd-shaped. Drain the beans. In a small saucepan, place the mung beans and cover with 1½ cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes check the doneness and, if necessary, add a little more water and continue cooking.
  2. Prepping the lotus seeds: Soak the  lotus seeds in warm water for 1 hour.
  3. Prepping the tofu: Drain the liquid from the package of the tofu. Slice the tofu in two, horizontally. Gently cut the tofu into 1-inch square cubes. Silken tofu is very delicate and easily breakable, so be very cautious and gentle. Set aside.
  4. In a large pot, place the vegetable stock. Add the kaffir lime leaves and grated ginger. Bring to a roaring boil. Add the lotus seeds, the pumpkin and sweet potato and lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes until softened. Check the seasoning. Season with salt (if necessary) and pepper. Adjust sweetness (if necessary) with palm sugar.
  5. Bring the soup to a full boil. Add the mushrooms, tofu skin, mung beans, wood ear mushrooms and bananas. Continuously stir the broth as it will thicken very quickly (about 20 minutes). Add the coconut milk and peanuts. Check the texture of the soup; it should be thick and syrupy. If you find the soup to be too thick, add more water or vegetable broth. Cook for about 2 minutes. Stir gently so the tofu doesn’t fall apart. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove and discard the kaffir lime leaves. Finish with black pepper.
  7. Serve immediately.

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