Hot and Sour Soup

img_2398This is the time of year when the question isn’t “should we have soup” but which soup should we have? I realized that I hadn’t made hot and sour soup in quite some time and since it has always been a favorite of ours, I was determined to remedy that asap. This recipe is from a very early Joyce Chen cookbook. Joyce Chen had a restaurant in Cambridge, MA back in the ’70s and she was an early example of introducing Americans to Chinese food that went beyond egg foo yung and chicken chow mein. There are a couple of ingredients that you would have to get that would not be in your standard non-Asian pantry, but they won’t break the bank and because they are dried, they will last quite some time. They really make or break the dish, in my opinion, so they are worth seeking out if you want hot and sour soup. Everything is available in a good Asian market or online. This can be thrown together pretty quickly and frankly, I have never had one from a restaurant that I have enjoyed more. The seasonings I have given below are for a well-balanced hot and sour soup. I don’t like food that set my hair on fire when I eat them. If you want it hotter, you can increase the amount of white pepper and you can use a “hot” sesame oil; however, you need to keep the balance of white pepper and cider vinegar pretty much the same so you don’t end up with a “hot” but not sour soup. Alot of this can be prepped ahead of time and the actual cooking takes only minutes.

Hot and Sour Soup by Joyce Chen and tweaked by me

Yield: 4 to 6 servings with other dishes

Ingredients

1/4 cup pork loin, thinly sliced and cut into strips

1 teaspoon dry sherry

3 Tablespoons corn starch

4 cups salted chicken stock (I used a lower sodium version)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon lower sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup dried wood ears (black fungus)

1/4 cup dried golden needles (lily buds)

1/2 cup firm tofu, shredded

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon white ground pepper

Toasted sesame oil (hot or regular) for serving

6 scallions, minced for serving

Directions

  1. Mix the shredded pork with the sherry and 1 teaspoon of the corn starch and set aside.
  2. Snap off any woody pieces from the wood ears and hard stems from the golden needles – better quality wood ears and golden needles won’t have this problem generally. Soak the wood ears and golden needles in separate bowls of boiling water, covered for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.  Rinse, drain and squeeze out excess water. Cut golden needles in half and cut the wood ears into smaller pieces. (This can be done ahead, drained and kept aside.)
  3. Mix the remaining corn starch (2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) with 1/2 cup of cold water. If this sits, the corn starch will harden and you will need to whisk it well just when you are ready to use it.
  4. Bring to a boil the chicken broth , salt and soy sauce. Add in the pork mixture and boil for 1 minute.
  5. Add the drained wood ears and golden needles and boil for another minute. Then add the tofu. As soon as the soup returns to a boil, whisk in the well-stirred corn starch mixture until the soup thickens, which happens pretty quickly. It will continue to thicken so as soon as it starts, whisk in the beaten egg and remove from the heat. The egg will form egg shreds, which is what you want. Stir in the white pepper and vinegar. Garnish with the scallions and sesame oil. Serve hot. This is best eaten fresh.

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