Imagine a bowl of food that tastes as fresh as a stir-fry, reminds you of your favorite dumplings, and has the aromatic broth of a good noodle bowl, all in the form of a delicious and nuanced stew.
For the broth:
1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil
Shells from 1 pound (31/35 count) shrimp, rinsed and blotted dry (optional)
8 cups (2 quarts) vegetarian no-chicken broth or regular chicken broth
1 large lemongrass stalk, chopped
2 ounces fresh ginger, thinly sliced
Coarsely chopped green tops from 2 bunches scallion (about 1 1/2 cups)
Stems from 8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns, or 1 star anise pod
For the stew:
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
8 ounces medium carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal (about 2 cups)
Caps from 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound Savoy cabbage, quartered, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)
12 ounces baby bok choy, shredded (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons Asian sweet chile paste
2 tablespoons mirin or dry sherry
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon black Chinese vinegar (optional)
1 pound (31/35 count) uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 scallion bunches (white parts only), thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, torn
Make the broth:
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. If using the shrimp shells, stir them into the oil and cook until bright pink, about 1 minute, stirring continuously.
Stir in the broth, lemongrass, ginger, scallion tops, shiitake stems, garlic, and peppercorns or star anise. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing firmly on the solids. Discard the solids and set the broth aside. Wipe out the pot to use for the stew.
Make the stew:
Heat the oil in the pot over high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring continuously, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and bok choy and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes.
Add the reserved ginger broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is just tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
Stir in the soy sauce or tamari, chile paste, mirin, sesame oil, and black vinegar if using. Simmer 1 minute. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the shrimp, cover, and let stand until the shrimp are no longer opaque, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook the shrimp.
Sprinkle the scallions, cilantro, mint, and basil over the top and serve immediately. Offer additional soy sauce or tamari, chile paste, and black vinegar at the table.
Make ahead: The cooled broth can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Photo: Maria Siriano