read, cook, eat January 2010: hot and sour power

January 11, 2010
Asian Home Gourmet Szechuan Hot & Sour Soup Mix.

Asian Home Gourmet Szechuan Hot & Sour Soup Mix.

Flu vaccines? Phhhh! What you need, if you’re feeling poorly, is a good ladle of hot and sour soup. A little bok choy, couple morsels of chicken or shrimp or, if you’re really hard core, a tender cube of tofu. Tasty. And suddenly, you can breathe again.

I used to be limited to ordering hot and sour at restos. Then I felt all superior for having found a great package base, Asian Home Gourmet Szechuan Hot & Spicy Soup (“no added MSG, preservatives or artificial colours”, it says here). But then I got brave and tried to make my own. Fortunately, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman left a trail of crumbs in the form of The Best Recipes in the World, Pages 145-146.

Here is my take on his recipe minus what I respectfully feel are unnecessarily fussy ingredients like dried wood ear mushrooms and dried lily buds, but with the addition of bok choy, baby corn (ok so sue me), and bamboo shoots, plus a little something something added by the Boyfriend, after appreciating the superior hot and sour served at Montreal’s Deer Garden restaurant.

Hot and Sour Soup

  • 3 T. soy
  • 1 T. dark sesame oil
  • 3 T. cornstarch
  • 1/2 pound chicken, cut into strips, or shrimp (shelled) or one block of tofu (medium or extra firm, depending on your taste), cut into small cubes.
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T. pepper flakes
  • 1 T. chopped lemongrass (wrap it in cheesecloth if finding one of these fibrous nuggets will put you off your food)
  • 1 inch-long piece of ginger, peeled and grated (maybe a little more if your cold hasn’t peaked yet)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar, or more to taste
  • 1 T. freshly ground black pepper or more to taste
  • medium bulb of bok choy or other dark leafy green, chopped into small enough pieces that you won’t end up with an inelegantly long ribbon dangling from your chin)
  • couple cups of mushrooms, sliced very thin
  • 1 can of baby corn
  • 1 can bamboo shoots
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten and set aside
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 can of chunk pineapple

1. Whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil and 1 T. cornstarch and marinate the tofu or chicken while you …

2. Combine the stock with the ginger, garlic, pepper flakes and lemongrass. Bring to a boil and add the marinated meat or tofu (if you’re using shrimp, you’ll be adding them a little later) and reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring (if using chicken) to make sure the pieces don’t stick together.

3.  Then add the shrimp (if using), pineapple, mushrooms, corn, bamboo shoots, vinegar and pepper and simmer for 5 more minutes, at the end adding the bok choy.

4. Mix the remaining 2 T. of cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water and stir into the soup until it thickens, about a minute. Continue to stir and pour the eggs in a slow stream, so the egg forms threads. Let cool for five minutes before serving. Garnish with the cilantro and green onions.

5. Call Buckleys and cancel your order. You won’t be needing any of that any more.

— Denise Duguay


One comment

  1. Can I eat this AND get a flu shot? Or is that like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters?

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