I love green things. The green version of a recipe is always my favorite version. Give me the green curry, the green salsa, green shakshuka, the green eggs and ham - I love everything green! So when I came to Mexico to start learning about the cuisine, pozole verde really caught my attention.
Green pozole is traditionally made with chicken, from what I hear from local people, menus and recipes online. But I like to veganize things, especially soups, so I had it in my mind that I could make a lovely version using the chickpea broth that I refuse to stop talking about. I looked around the internet for more traditional recipes so I could make sure I had all the essential elements in my version. I ended up going with a version I found on the Latina Mama Tips blog and used their recipe for Green Pozole with Chicken as my main resource. The recipe is really simple and made of super fresh ingredients - as is typical of Mexican cuisine. It starts with a simple aromatic chicken stock, and then a fresh blended salsa is added to the soup. It's finished with lost of tasty crunchy and fatty toppings.
When I set out to develop my vegan version, the first thing I knew I would do was to borrow from the essential flavor base of Thai cuisine, "sam glur." This is a flavor base I've mentioned before. It's quite neutral and lends itself well to nearly any cuisine, but it particularly makes sense in the Mexican context because it's made of ingredients common in Mexican cuisine - garlic, cilantro (roots if you can find them) and white pepper. The reason I'm so fond of the Thai flavor base is that it's really concentrated in flavor and aroma, so a small amount of it added to soup recipes delivers a really great foundation. For this recipe, we pound up a sam glur and sauté it in our soup pot like a sofrito, before adding in our stock ingredients.
The other change I made was, obviously, not adding meat. My favorite base for a veggie soup is chickpea stock, which I use in many recipes. For this version, I do the entire recipe in one pot, no need to strain out chickpeas and reserve the water. We're doing it all at once! It's a lovely little flavor base and the chickpeas work really nicely with the hominy.
Notes on special ingredients
Tomatillos look like unripe tomatoes. You may see them with their outer skins attached, or they may be sold already peeled, as shown in the photos below. While they look unripe, they are actually fully ripe in their green state. They are more sour than tomatoes and slightly less waters. They blend up beautifully in this soup, and if you have leftovers, you can whip up a lovely salsa verde in about 2 minutes!
Hominy is a whole nixtamalized corn kernel. Before corn is used to make tortillas, it is processed in an alkali solution often consisting of water and lye. This process breaks down the corn, causing it to become more digestible and nutritious for human consumption. To make a tortilla masa, corn is nixtamalized and then ground into a fine paste. Hominy is the whole kernels of corn before they're ground to masa. The texture of hominy is soft, offering a top notch toothsinkability.
Easy Vegan Pozole Verde
1/2 lb dry chickpeas, soaked in salted water overnight
1/2 lb cooked hominy (one can, you want roughly an equal amount to your chickpeas)
1 - 2 quarts water
5 cloves of garlic
3 T finely chopped cilantro stems
10 pepper corns (white or black)
2 t course sea salt
2 T olive oil
5 tomatillos, sliced into quarters
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems and all, washed
1/2 white onion, sliced into manageable wedges
4 cloves garlic
1-2 serrano chilies
2 T pumpkin seeds
Accompaniments of your choosing
Tostadas or tortillas
White onion, chopped
Shredded ice burg lettuce
Pozole Verde Method
The very first thing you do will happen 7+ hours before you make the soup, and that is to soak the chickpeas in salted water. Ideally, you would do this the night before you intend to make the soup, or first thing in the morning if you intend to have it for dinner. Soak: 1/2 cup dried chickpeas in 4 cups of water and 2 teaspoons kosher salt.
Prepare your flavor base (pepper corns, cilantro stems and garlic) by either mincing or pounding the garlic, cilantro stems and pepper corns and a pinch of salt into a paste. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it!
In a medium sized stock pot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and the garlic cilantro paste and turn the heat to medium low. Sauté this paste until it is aromatic and makes your kitchen smell amazing.
Next add your water, drained soaked chickpeas, drained canned hominy and 2 teaspoons of salt to the pot. The water isn't really a measured amount, add as much as you need to cover your chickpeas and hominy by 2 inches. Bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Check on the soup from time to time to skim off the foam accumulating on your broth. Cook for 30 minutes and check the chickpeas for tenderness.
When the chickpeas are nearly ready, turn the heat to low and begin to prepare your salsa.
Add your tomatillos, onion, garlic, chili, cilantro, pumpkin seeds and a pinch of salt to your blender and blend on high until nice and smooth.
Add this salsa to your soup and bring it to a boil. If you have a lot of salsa stuck in your blender, add a bit of water, swirl it around and pour it into your soup.
Cook for about 5 minutes or until your chickpeas are fully cooked. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
I was told by a dear friend that there is an important order to how one garnishes their pozole verde. If you are including the ice burg lettuce in your bowl, this should go first, next goes the avocado, radish, onion, then cilantro. The idea is that the lettuce will keep the other things from just sinking to the bottom of the bowl, so you do the lettuce, then add ingredients by their weight, heaviest first. But no one is watching at home, so you do what you want!
One addition for future versions of this soup would be to play around with green canned jackfruit. This is a common ingredient in vegan recipes, it's said to be quite similar to chicken in texture and is great at absorbing the flavor of sauce of flavor base you cook it in. To get even closer to the traditional chicken pozole verde, I think getting some jackfruit would be a great step.