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Chinese hot and sour soup

August 6, 2012

Having recently home-roasted a chicken, I had a bunch of carcass bones left over. I’ve actually never made a homemade stock with a carcass before, so I figured I should indulge in a recipe for which stock is important to have, since I never use canned/boxed stuff in my dishes otherwise.

The dish I chose was hot and sour soup. As someone who liked to sip on Chinese black vinegar as a child, hot and sour soup was my favorite. My mom used to make it using chicken bouillon, which I now avoid due to msg and other preservatives. Time to try it using real chicken stock.

In this soup, two of my favorite mushrooms are used in combination with each other: shiitake and wood ear. Shiitake has a flavor that is completely different from all the other classic culinary mushrooms, while wood ear is mainly tasteless, other than the woodiness the name implies, and it mainly lends a crunchy texture than any actual flavor. I buy my dried mushrooms at Chinese supermarkets, which is probably the only packaged product I’d ever buy there. The fresh versions of the mushrooms are also available at the Chinese supermarket, but it’s much more convenient for myself to just keep the dried ones in my pantry since they are used so sparingly in most recipes.

Because I didn’t have any red pepper flakes, red chili pepper paste, or chili oil, I used a jalapeno for the spiciness in the recipe. I think the oil or paste would have provided a cleaner taste, so I modified the recipe below to reflect a better end product.

I also skipped on bamboo and lily buds because my mom never really used them in our home recipe, though one can certainly add either to make the soup more hearty. It is also customary to add a package of spicy mustard tubers, but I am equally paranoid about the preservatives in those as I am with shelved chicken stock. Finally, pork can be added for better flavor, but I normally don’t because it usually gets really dry easily, and who keeps such a small amount of diced pork around in the fridge, anyway? But by all means, go crazy with the extra ingredients if those flavors are so desired to be incorporated in the soup. I find the ingredients I used to be core to the recipe, though.

4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup dried wood ear mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced pork (optional)
1/4 cup dried lily buds (optional)
1 package Chinese mustard tubers (optional)
1 can bamboo shoots (optional)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp hot chili oil or 1 Tbsp chili paste
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

(1) Soak dried mushrooms in warm water for at least 30 minutes. Soak lily buds in same liquid, if using.
(2) When the mushrooms are reconstituted, slice the shiitake lengthwise into strips, and finely slice the wood ear mushrooms into long, thin strips.
(3) Bring the chicken stock to a boil on high, and add mushrooms. Also add the pork, lily buds, bamboo shoots, and mustard tubers if using. Bring back to a boil and simmer on medium-low for 10 minutes.
(4) Add vinegar, soy sauce, and chili oil/paste. Add water to the tapioca starch in a small bowl, stir, and add to the soup. Bring soup back up to a boil before turning off heat.
(5) Quickly whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Add slowly to the soup in a small stream while quickly stirring the soup. There is no need to bring the soup back to a boil. Garnish with chopped green onions if desired.
(6) Serve hot!


Dai Dai

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