Hot and Sour Soup for a Cold and Blustery Night

In honor of Chinese New Year today, I thought I'd post my recipe for Hot and Sour Soup.

As a staple in all Chinese restaurants and homes, there are infinite ways to prepare this satisfying tradition. My parents never used recipes, or wrote anything down while they cooked. That explains a lot about me, I know. I grew up knowing this soup by taste, by smell, by texture, and have always reproduced it in my kitchen accordingly. It was not until my friend Susan recently requested a cooking lesson, that I actually recorded (approximate) measurements for the ingredients. Don't be deterred by the ingredients--a visit to your Asian market will lay your fears to rest. It's so simple to make, you may never stop for take-out again. Just thank Susan.

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  • 1/4 c. dried black fungus (rinsed and reconstituted in warm water)
  • handful fresh enoki mushrooms (cut off root ends and separate from each other or use one can, drained)
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 T. chicken boullion
  • 1 can bamboo strips
  • 1/2 can baby corn pieces
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1 pkg. medium-firm tofu, cut in 1/4 in strips (will use about 3/4 pkg.)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 rounded T. cornstarch in 1/3 c. water
  • 1 T. white pepper
  • 1/2 T. sugar
  • 1 t. chili garlic sauce
  • 1/4 c. marinated chicken or pork, cut into tiny strips (marinate strips in soy, pepper, a dash of sugar, and a drip of sesame oil overnight)
  • scallions for garnish

Begin by prepping the meat, by cutting into tiny strips, and marinating as directed. Cover in dish, and refrigerate overnight. In a large pot, bring first nine ingredients to a gentle boil. Carefully add the tofu. When soup is at a rolling boil, slowly stir in beaten eggs into the center of pot in a steady stream. Mix cornstarch mixture, and add to soup. Add pepper, sugar, and chili garlic sauce. Taste, and when all flavors are adjusted, add the pre-marinated chicken strips. If you've cut your meat up thin enough, this should only take a few minutes at a simmer. You don't want to toughen the meat. Turn off heat when meat is cooked through. Serve garnished with diced scallions.

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