seitan is my motor



October 2009



Vegan Solyanka

Today is Tag der Deutschen Einheit in Germany (German Unification Day), the national holiday to celebrate the reunification of East and West Germany. I am not patriotic, but since it is Vegan MoFo, I decided to make unification themed food again. Last year I made “reunification pancakes”. This year I made vegan solyanka.

I first heard about solyanka when I entered the university canteen in Leipzig several years ago. I had never heard about this red soup that was served in every bakery, in every canteen, and almost everywhere else in the Eastern part of Germany. I was Western German and we simply didn’t have solyanka. I was curious to learn more about it, but when I found out that it consisted mainly of leftover dead animals in a bowl, my curiosity ended.

Last night when I thought about my unification themed food, I browsed recipe sites for “GDR food”, sites that are about the nostalgic recreation of food from the German “Democratic” Republic. When I saw solyanka on one of those lists, I realized that now was the time to veganize this soup.

Solyanka is a Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish soup that was famous all over Eastern Germany. It is often defined as “meat soup”. It is made from sausage and meat leftovers which are cooked in broth. The soup has a bright red colour because tomato paste and sometimes letscho/lecsó are cooked in the broth. Another important ingredient is pickled cucumbers and brine, which both make the soup slightly sour. (I think this is where the Russian part comes in.)

Let me now present you a vegan version of solyanka which looks exactly like the every day canteen version of this soup and tastes like the original version (so said P. who knows his solyanka).

Vegan Solyanka (makes 2 large servings), adapted from here

For the “meat base”:
100 g (3.5 oz) smoked tofu
100 g (3.5 oz) tempeh
2 T hot ketchup (or regular ketchup with a dash of hot sauce)
2 T soy sauce
1 T liquid smoke
1 T water
2 t Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced

Cut tofu and tempeh into bite size pieces. Mix together marinade. Combine marinade, tofu, and tempeh, and mix well until both tofu and tempeh are well coated. Set aside and let marinade for 30 minutes.
Heat a pan to medium heat and have a fitting lid ready. Add 1 T oil to pan and then add the marinated tofu/tempeh mixture. Cover with lid because the mixture will splash. Cook over medium heat until the marinade is absorbed. It is a thick marinade, maybe you’ll want to add another tablespoon of water, which will reduce splashing a bit.
In the end your mixture should look like this:

Set aside.

For the soup:

1000 ml (4 cups) vegetable broth
t oil
2 medium onions
2 large or 4 small sour pickled cucumbers, cut into thin slices
3 T brine from the picked cucumbers
126 g (4.5 oz) seitan sausage*, cut into strips
2 T tomato paste
4 juniper berries
10 whole black peppercorns
*I used a piece of Celine’s fantastic pumpkin fauxsage, but any kind of homemade/store-bought seitan sausage will work.

Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot.

Heat oil in a second pan (preferably cast iron). Add onions and fry until browned, for about ten minutes over medium heat.

Add cucumbers and seitan and fry for 5 more minutes. Add tomato paste and stir. Pour cucumber brine into vegetable broth and add onion mixture. Add tofu/tempeh mixture, juniper berries, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and let cook on high heat for ten minutes. The soup should have slighly thickened and have a very bright dark red colour. Serve immediately. For a very traditional version garnish with a slice of lemon and a tablespoon of vegan sour cream.



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