Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hot and Sour Soup

     Once again I turn to my trusty copy of The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. This time it's for soup. You can never go wrong with soup. Unless you undercook something and give everybody dysentery. Then I suppose you've gone wrong. You could also spill a scalding hot bowl on your crotch. I suppose that would be wrong, too. OK, you can go wrong with soup. This particular soup is worth the risk. One of my favorite treats at a Chinese restaurant is the hot and sour soup. I am always on the lookout for a recipe that replicates that experience. This does not even come close. Don't let that scare you away. This soup is really tasty and pretty easy to make. We really screwed around with the recipe and were very pleased with the results. If you can manage to keep the sodium down, you've got a really healthy meal. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Hot and Sour Soup
via The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook
  • 3 or 4 dried black mushrooms (as I do not normally engage in witchcraft, I do not normally stock these. We went with a 15-ounce can of straw mushrooms. Keep the liquid if you use the canned!)
  • 1/4 pound lean pork (none on hand. We went with an equal amount of ground turkey)
  • 2 bean curd cakes (that's kind of a nebulous measurement, so we went with a 1 pound block of firm tofu, cut into about 1/2 inch squares)
  • 1 scallion (we used 2 since the garden is overrun with them)
  • 1 15-ounce can stir fry vegetables, drained. We're talking water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, baby corn, sprouts, etc.)
  • 5 cups stock (we used a home made shrimp stock. Feel free to use the stock of your choice)
  • 1 cup mushroom soaking liquid (obviously you're only going to have these if you used the dried mushrooms. If you used the can like we did, just pour in the liquid along with the mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry (none on hand, we used an equal amount of dry vermouth)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (since this was hot and sour soup, we used an equal amount of pique sauce. It was still vinegar based, but had an extra hot pepper kick)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt (omitted. There's already enough sodium in here)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (doesn't say what kind. I used a bit of black and about 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes)
  • A few dashes of Tabasco if you want more heat
  • Sesame oil
  1. Soak dried mushrooms. Reserve soaking liquid (or just open can and don't drain it)
  2. Sliver mushrooms, pork and bean curd. Mince scallion. Beat egg lightly. Blend cornstarch and cold water to a paste (we didn't cut the mushrooms at all. We used ground turkey so no slicing there. I decided to simply chop the scallions just to be a bastard).
  3. (The original recipe does not specify what to cook the soup in. I went with a 5-quart pot.) Bring stock and mushroom soaking liquid to a boil. Add pork (or turkey. Or both if you're feeling daring) and mushrooms (if you went with the canned mushrooms, just unceremoniously dump the entire contents of the can into the pot. If you're also using the optional can of stir fry vegetables, it goes in at this point, too) and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. 
  4. Add bean curd and simmer, covered, for 3 more minutes.
  5. Stir in sherry (or vermouth), vinegar (or pique), salt (if using. It's your heart; do what you want), soy sauce and pepper. Pour in cornstarch paste to thicken. Stir gently. 
  6. Slowly add beaten egg, stirring gently once or twice (no more than twice! It would be bad. Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light) Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sesame oil and scallions.
    Total protonic reversal.

    Good times!

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