Hot and Sour Soup

I love getting hot and sour soup when I go out. Unfortunately many restaurant versions tend to be too salty or to have very little flavor other than salt. The beauty of this soup is that you can add a lot of vegetables to suit your tastes. The recipe here is very simple but you can try adding things like: thinly sliced green cabbage, a small amount of peas, dried lily flowers, other varieties of mushrooms, etc.

I have made this soup in the past using American vinegars and they’ve turned out ok but I’ve found that getting Chinese Black Vinegar and Rice Wine Vinegar really give this a more authentic and full-bodied taste. If you use American red and white wine vinegars you may need to add a little sugar, extra carrots, cabbage or something else to mellow out the flavor as American wine vinegars are very one dimensional when used in this recipe. You might also want to try using balsamic vinegar as a sub for the black vinegar if you can’t find it. When substituting vinegars you will likely need to change the amounts used.

You can use any meat in this, or omit the meat altogether. You can sub veggie broth to make this vegetarian. The only must have in this dish is a couple of beaten eggs and the black wood ear mushroom (although you really could use button mushrooms if you can’t find wood ear it will just have a different texture). If you can’t find the cloud mushroom you can double the amount of the wood ear mushroom instead.

Ingredients:

  • 4oz pork, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese rice wine or sherry
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 small dried wood ear mushroom
  • 1 small dried Asian cloud mushroom (these are the white frilly ones that come dried)
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/2 of a carrot – cut into matchstick strips
  • 4 oz (about 1/4 of a large block) soft or medium-firm tofu – cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 oz canned bamboo – rinsed and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 large egg – lightly beaten
  • 1 green onion

Seasoning:

  • 1 Tbs Soy Sauce (Chinese or Japanese is preferred for this recipe)
  • 1 Tbs Chinese Black Vinegar (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbs (plus more to taste) Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper – can substitute fresh ground black peppercorn
  • 2 Tbs corn starch
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1/2 Tbs Asian Chili Oil (store bought or recipe here: http://cookingforthogg.livejournal.com/15812.html)
  • 1/2 tsp (or more to taste) Sesame oil

Directions:

  • Boil about 3-4 cups of water. Marinade the pork with the rice wine and corn starch about 15 min.
  • In a medium-small bowl Soak the wood ear and cloud mushroom in boiling water and make sure it covers the mushroom by several inches. Let it soak for about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse with fresh water a few times and then drain thoroughly. Slice the wood ear mushroom into 1-1.5 inch long pieces and then slice those into very thin matchsticks. Be careful as the mushroom may be a bit slippery. If you aren’t sure about your knife skills or don’t want to bother, you can usually find dried wood-ear mushroom pre-sliced although it will be in thicker strips than is ideal. Slice the cloud mushroom into small pieces. If you have any dark yellow or brown spots near the root end of the piece you can cut and discard those pieces if you wish.
  • Remove the root from the green onion. Thinly slice the white stalk and set aside. Slice on the diagonal in thicker slices the green leaf portions of the green onion. Set that aside separately. Mix all the seasoning ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  • Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil in a soup pot. Add the pork, mushrooms, carrot, tofu, the white portion of the green onion, and bamboo shoots. Continue to boil for about 5 minutes and skim off any foam.
  • Add the seasonings into the soup, stir and turn off the heat.
  • Swirl in the beaten egg and immediately stir 3-4 times with a pair of chopsticks. Cover the pot with its lid and leave for 2 minutes.
  • Drizzle in the sesame oil and toss in the green portion of the green onion. Give it a quick stir and serve immediately.
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