Ode To Vegetarian Cuisine - Part 2


Health is on everyone’s minds and there is no better person to discuss the benefits of staying healthy this summer than Arlene-Frances Wu. As a nutritionist and the founder of Health Concept, Arlene-Frances believes that “the majority of people used to have misconceptions about vegetarian food.” She adds, “They think it doesn’t offer a lot of flavors and they can’t really get full from it, but that is changing now. More and more people are eating vegetarian food not only just for health or religious reasons, but simply because it is delicious.”

According to the Hong Kong Vegetarian Society, as of 2008, 2.4% of the whole population of Hong Kong are ‘complete’ vegetarians and 25% are ‘partial’ vegetarians (over 25% of their meals in the past month were vegetarian). A representative from the organization said, “This survey takes a lot of money and labour to conduct, which we need to use wisely as a non-profit organization. Hence, we haven’t done an update and we would rather spend our resources on events and campaigns that promote vegetarian food.”

However, she hypothesizes “If we did a research update now, I wouldn’t be surprised that the numbers have multiplied. We currently have more than 2000 members at our organization. Though, some of them are not fully vegetarians, they believe in this culture and that’s why they still want to be part of us.”

Many Chinese believe that meat or meat bones need to be the main ingredient in order to make a tasty dish. Arlene-Frances disagrees. “Once we had a vegetarian cooking class at my workshop and I taught my students how to make Tom Yum Goong soup.” She recalls, “After the class, one of the students came up to me and said that she had no idea until now that the shrimp actually has nothing to do with the flavors in the soup!” The flavors are derived from the vegetables and seasonings used.

Try it yourself. Here’s Arlene’s vegetarian recipe for Tom Yum Goong Soup:


• 1 L of Vegetable Stock
• 1 Stalk Lemongrass, minced
• 3 Kaffir Lime Leaves
• 3 – 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
• 1 – 2 Red Chillies, finely sliced, or 1/2 to 3/4 tsp Dried Crushed Chillies
• 1 cup of Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced thinly
• 1/2 cup good-quality Coconut Milk
• 1 tbsp freshly-squeezed Lime Juice
• 1/3 cup Fresh Coriander, roughly chopped
• 1/2 tsp Raw Sugar


1. Pour stock into a deep cooking pot and bring to a boil.
2. Add the lemongrass and boil for 1-2 minutes. If using fresh lemongrass, also add the upper stalk pieces for extra flavor.
3. Add garlic, chillies, lime leaves, and mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 1-2 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the coconut milk and lime juice. Stir well to combine and gently simmer until hot.
5. Garnish with fresh coriander.

Jeannie Cho Lee MW generally suggests not pairing wine with soup, but if one insists on having wine, the best choice would be a crisp, refreshing, herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc such as 2012 Errazuriz – Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard.  

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