Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chinese hot and sour soup

Happy year of the rabbit! In honour of the lunar New Year I am trying out some dishes from my Chinese cookbook. I was ecstatic to receive a basic Chinese cookery book for Christmas; I have sticky flagged about a dozen recipes that I think I can recreate. Meanwhile, I readied my "lucky money" packets for giving out later this week. These red envelopes say "blessed" (or "lucky") on the front and we add a monetary gift for those who serve us; our door staff and the dry cleaning ladies are my main conferrees. The Chinese character for "blessed" is made up of three parts: one man, in the garden, with God; and inside the envelope there is a little note about it in English and Chinese.

I feel very blessed to be living in Hong Kong and I'm hopeful about the year ahead. I intend to learn more about Chinese home cooking and Asian ingredients, and to develop this blog, sharing my adventures with you as I go.

I adapted this soup recipe to be more simple for a non-Chinese cook--that is, more simple for me! I'm sure I have access to all the ingredients that were originally called for, but this confused Westerner failed to find all of them at the grocery store. This also makes it a realisable recipe for you, since I imagine you could find most of these things at a large grocery store (or Chinatown) nearby.
Hot and Sour Soup
adapted from A Little Taste of China
serves 4 as a side dish or starter

Prepare all the ingredients first, since this soup comes together in just a few minutes. A welcome by-product of this recipe is a small bowl of mushroom liquor, drained after rehydrating dried mushrooms. Use this flavourful liquid to make risotto, as a base for noodle soup, or to replace some of the stock in this recipe.

1/2 c (25 g) dried mushrooms, any type
100 g lean pork
1 T cornstarch
120 g firm tofu, drained
1/4 c (50 g) fresh or tinned bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
4 c (1 L) chicken or vegetable stock
3 T rice wine vinegar
2 T soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 chopped spring onion

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for 30 minutes, then drain. (Keep the liquor for another purpose or use it to replace some of the stock in this recipe.) Chop the mushrooms.

Thinly slice the pork and toss with 1 t of the cornstarch.
Crumble the tofu and chop the bamboo shoots into small pieces.

In a large pot, bring the stock to the boil and add the pork, stirring with a fork to keep the pieces from sticking together.
Add the mushrooms, tofu, and bamboo shoots.
Let the soup return to the boil and then add the rice wine vinegar and so sauce.
Pour in the eggs, stirring to break them up into long shreds.
Cook for 1 minute.

Whisk the remaining 2 t cornstarch with a small amount of water, then stir this into the soup. Let it simmer for 3 minutes to thicken.

Serve the soup with spring onion on top.

Additionally, please also have a look at last year's Chinese New Year recipe: ginger noodle soup.


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