Sunday, April 11, 2010

Vegan Un-Chicken Barley Soup

I knew this soup was a winner when my husband tasted it and exclaimed, "Wow! This really does taste like chicken."  You see, my husband is a meat-eater.  But not just any old meat-eater.  He was raised in a town where the only meat you can find is fresh, never frozen.  So when he thought my Un-Chicken Barley Soup actually tasted like chicken soup, well, I think that says something.

Most un-chicken soups I've seen assume that cooks have access to fancy condiments like vegetarian chicken-flavored bouillon.  Not in Mexico.  

However, in Mexico we do sometimes have access to this soup's secret ingredient: MSG.  I found some in a little stand that was part of a Chinese food restaurant in a tiny mountain town where I used to live.  If you are lucky enough to come across MSG, buy a bag.  You can also purchase MSG online.  It's cheap and lasts forever because you use so little in every recipe.

Scared by the anti-MSG hype?  I can't find evidence that a little MSG every now and then causes health problems in adults.  However, feel free to use the comments section to argue otherwise.

  • 3 liters water
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 chile, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 handful (about 1/3 cup) texturized vegetable protein (TVP)
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 2 TB dry parsley or 2 stalks fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning (sold as hierbas finas in Mexico)
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 3 tsp MSG
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put water in a large pot to boil.
  2. Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Simmer until vegetables are soft and barley is cooked (about 30-45 minutes).
  4. Adjust salt to taste and serve.
Serves 4-6.

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