Laura and I are kind of addicted to Hot and Sour Soup. We always get it when we go to a Chinese restaurant, but quality varies widely. They make a good one at this Chinese buffet we go to, but when you go to one of those things it is like you want to eat a lot to get your money’s worth. What if you just want some soup?
We keep dried lily buds and wood ear fungus in the pantry. They last forever and are commonly available at Asian markets and they are the key ingredients in Hot and Sour Soup. Tofu is kind of important too. You don’t have to add it but it isn’t quite the same without it. Problem with tofu is it has a short life in the refrigerator and will go bad in 5 or 6 days, plus you should really change the water daily. We should probably try some other recipes that use tofu (note to self, check out some after you write this.)
The recipe is just a guideline, you should adjust the level of heat and sour to your taste. When I made this last night, I found it to be lacking in both heat and sour and continued adding heat (more chili paste) and sour (more vinegar) tasting as I went until I felt it was at the right level on both counts.
Hot and Sour Soup
1/2 cup cornstarch, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chili garlic paste, or more to taste
3 oz. ground pork
1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine, or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup soaked dried lily flower
1/4 cup soaked wood ears
1/2 cup mushrooms, cut in 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup packaged firm tofu
1/4 cup bamboo shoots
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar, preferably Chinkiang vinegar
1. Soak the dried lily flower and wood ears for an hour or two until hydrated. Once they’re ready, give the wood ears a rough chop. Trim the tough ends off the lily flowers and cut them in half.
2. Mix 1/2 cup cornstarch with an equal amount of water and use a spoon to stir until completely dissolved.
3. Place pork into a bowl with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry) and 1/2 teaspoon oil. Stir it all together.
4. Cut the firm tofu into 2-inch long and 1/4-inch thick pieces. Slice the winter bamboo shoots into the same shape.
5. Beat the two eggs in a bowl. Wash and chop the scallion and set aside.
6. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a wok or pot and add the pork. Stir with chopsticks to ensure the pork is not clumped together.
7. Add the chili garlic paste, white pepper and both soy sauces, and check the soup for salt and add salt if needed. Add the lily flowers, wood ears, mushrooms and bamboo shoots and bring the soup to a simmer. Add the tofu, sesame oil, vinegar and stir. It should start to look and smell like the real thing about now!
8. Use a spoon to remix your cornstarch slurry in the bowl so it’s all combined. Bring the mixture to a simmer and use your soup ladle and stir the soup at the center of the wok in steady a circular motion to make a whirlpool while slowly pouring the corn starch slurry in a thin stream. This prevents the cornstarch from clumping. Stop when you are about 3/4 of the way done with your slurry to check the consistency of the soup. It should be thick enough to coat your spoon or ladle. Add the rest if needed.
9. Keep the soup simmering and use the same technique with the beaten eggs and again, make sure the motion is fast enough or you will end up with egg clumps instead of the beautiful swirls or egg “flowers” (which is what the Chinese call it).
10. Garnish with the chopped scallions and serve.