Hot and Sour Soup

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Hot and Sour Soup

Sometimes one simply needs a good pot of hot, spicy, soul-cleansing, sinus-clearing soup. Situations that such a soup might possibly remedy:

  1. A miserably cold and dreary winter day
  2. Misery induced by the previous night’s over-eager indulgence in too many glasses of vino
  3. Night-before-exam misery due to having put off grocery shopping for an inordinate amount of time and finding yourself lacking both food and brain cells
  4. Cold/flu/sniffles/congestion-induced misery. Flu season sucks!

Lest you think that hot and sour soup should only be associated with fixing situations inextricably linked to misery, I should say that this soup is just plain good comfort food. It’s one of those things we associate with fast food Chinese joints but never really think to make at home. But why not? Most of the ingredients of this soup can be stored in the pantry and forgotten until one of the above situations calls for their immediate, and much-appreciated appearance. Even the fresh ingredients – tofu and enoki mushrooms – can last a pretty dang long time in the refrigerator and are pretty good things to have on hand for other recipes as well. As always, for ideas for future use/notes about ingredients used in this recipe, take a gander below the recipe directions.

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1. Dried shredded woodear mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu, egg, dried shitake mushrooms
2. Seasonings: red wine vinegar, light and dark soy sauces, sesame oil, rice vinegar, korean red pepper flakes

The recipe is fairly brainless – you dump everything into the pot and wait for it to boil and ta-da, you have a soup worthy of slurping on the couch for a good, restorative session of vegetation. This recipe makes a pretty good amount of soup that can stand-alone as a meal or three, with enough to even share with hungry roommates. And here’s a brainless secret: you can store the soup in a Ziploc (the kind with a sliding zipper top) bag and throw it into the freezer and forget about it until the next time you need a misery-fixer or an emergency quick dinner. Today is one of those days – snow day, school cancelled, snowed in (and more than happy not to need to leave my bed for any significant amount of time). Simply defrost in the microwave until the icy soup block can slide out from the bag, and reheat the rest in a pot on the stove. GG, instant hot and sour soup.

For handy printable recipe, click HERE

Hot and Sour Soup (Recipe)
Prep time: 5-30 mins
Cook time: 15 min
Servings: 4-6

INGREDIENTS

Bulk Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup dried shredded woodear mushroom*
  • 5 dried shitake mushrooms**
  • 1 bunch (about 4 oz) enoki mushrooms***
  • 1 cup canned bamboo shoots (matchsticks)
  • ½ package (about 8oz) extra firm tofu
  • 1 egg

Seasonings

  • 1 TBSP miso paste
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 TBSP light soy sauce
  • 0.5 TBSP dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 TBSP Korean red pepper flakes (or other chili powder)
  • 1 TBSP ground white pepper
  • 1.5 TBSP cornstarch + ¼ cup water

*Fresh woodear mushrooms can also be used. Fresh ones are usually sold whole, so just slice into strips. **If you have access to fresh shitake mushrooms, use them instead to cut out the wait time in soaking dried ones ***Canned enoki mushrooms can also be used and can be easily found in the canned food section in Asian grocery stores

DIRECTIONS

  1. If using dried shitake mushrooms: soak in hot water for 30 minutes, flipping them over to the other side halfway through. Remove woody stems and slice into strips. For fresh shitakes, slice into strips and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, bring chicken broth and water to a boil. While waiting for liquid to boil, slice tofu into ~1cm x 4cm strips. When the pot comes to a boil, add all bulk ingredients (woodear, shitake, enoki, bamboo shoots, tofu) except for the egg. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add miso paste and stir to dissolve. Add all seasonings except for the cornstarch. Crack egg directly into pot and stir to disperse. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Mix 1.5 TBSP cornstarch in ¼ cup water. Add to soup, stirring well. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 2-3 more minutes. Soup is ready when slightly thickened.

Notes on ingredients and ideas for future use

Miso paste: This stuff is beyond versatile and lasts forever in the fridge. Obviously, you can make miso soup. You can make a marinade for salmon (ginger-miso salmon!) or other meats. You can make salad dressings. Add it to flavor your ramen broth. The possibilities are endless. I used miso as a savory flavoring in this recipe in lieu of adding additional salt. If you simply can’t find miso, you could just add salt to taste. 

Red wine vinegar: An excellent salad dressing ingredient – can be used in place of or in addition to balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, etc. Use it in braising chicken or cooking seafood, etc.

Korean red pepper flakes: This is the stuff responsible for the spicy goodness in kimchee, soondobu jiggae (tofu stew), various banchan (Korean side dishes), etc. I love using this in place of regular red pepper flakes or chili powders. Try topping pizza with this stuff! You should be able to find a small container of this chili at most Asian grocery stores. That is, unless you want to buy the 5lb packages marketed to Korean housewives who make their own kimchee (so jealous… another aspiration for another day)

Mushrooms: A generous variety of canned mushrooms can be found at Asian markets – including enoki, straw, button, etc. Realistically you could add whatever mushroom you want to this soup and call it your own variation. Dried shitake mushrooms keep in the pantry forever. You just need to remember to soak them prior to using. If you’re lazy like I am, you can even pre-soak them and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week (be sure to drain the soaking water before storing). Enoki mushrooms can be used in other Asian soups, stews, or in stir-fry’s with other veggies/meats.

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