Peruvian-Style Aguadito Soup with Coriander

Tenkei and I are often invited to visit Peru where Ryusho Sensei and his family live. It’s also the home of Zen River Lima, a dynamic group of practitioners led by Ryusho. After meeting with the Lima sangha for zazen and teisho, there’s sometimes a chance to do some sightseeing before flying home.

This time we were staying in a lodge overlooking the Amazon. Over breakfast I asked our tour guide what do you usually eat in the morning? He said “rice and fish soup”.  I began to wonder why were we eating boxed cereal, strawberry flavoured yogurt, and toast and scrambled eggs in the middle of the jungle? I wanted to know what this breakfast tasted like!

Lucky for us we got a chance at the airport in Lima after our connecting flight from Iquitos was cancelled and left no time for us to pick up the rest of our luggage before catching our flight back to Amsterdam. (Our luggage was reunited with us just in time, but only thanks to Marisa who drove it over to the airport.) While waiting for our bags, and for Ryusho, Cesar and Ramiro who were coming in on the next flight from Iquitos, we installed ourselves in a restaurant and pondered the menu. Lo and behold! I spotted a soup with rice and potatoes seasoned with lime and coriander. Maybe it was similar to what the tour guide was telling us? I hoped so. When the waiter complimented us on our choice I was sure it had to be. Even if it wasn’t, it was delicious.

When we returned I thought it would be lovely to make a vegetarian version. So here is my rendition and I hope you will enjoy.

By the way, firm tofu, when boiled, becomes even firmer with a nice texture that works well in this recipe.


100 g (½ cup) white jasmine rice
1 medium onion
1 or 2 chillies, preferably Ancho/Poblana, or to taste
20 g (2 tablespoons) ginger

3 cloves garlic
600 g (5 medium) yukon gold or waxy potatoes
3 medium carrots
1 cob of corn, or 150 g (¾ cup) sweet corn kernels
25 g (½ cup) fresh coriander (cilantro), or to taste
250 g firm tofu
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons lime juice
1½ litres (6 cups) water
Coconut or olive oil for frying

  • Cover the rice with water and soak while preparing the vegetables.
  • Peel and medium-dice the onions.
  • Cut the chilies into thin rings and deseed.
  • Peel and mince the ginger and garlic.
  • Peel and medium-dice the potatoes and carrots.
  • If using fresh corn, remove the leaves and silky fibers and cut the cob into 3 cm (1½ inch) rings.
  • Roughly chop the coriander leaves and stems.
  • Medium-dice the tofu. Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil on medium flame. Add the tofu and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, press gently to remove any excess water. Set aside.

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a stew pot on medium flame. Add the onions and chilies, and stir-fry until golden on the edges. Put in the garlic and ginger, and stir-fry for a minute until the garlic is golden and fragrant.
  • Add the potatoes and carrots, and stir-fry for a few minutes, then add the cumin. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Simmer on a low flame until the potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Scoop out a ladle or two of stock from the soup and set aside to cool.
  • Drain and rinse the rice and stir into the soup. Cover and simmer on a low flame. When the rice has been cooking for about 6 minutes, add the corn cobs and tofu and cook for a further 4–5 minutes. Remove from the flame when the rice and corn are tender. Salt to taste.
  • Finally, in a blender combine the reserved stock, chopped coriander, and lime juice and whizz until smooth and bright green. Just before serving stir through the soup.

Tip: If you don’t like coriander, try using parsley instead.

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