Friday, January 20, 2012

Hot ’n’ Sour Soup

My old friend Hazel Soon of Vancouver, Canada, gave me this recipe 40 years ago, when she taught me how to cook many Chinese dishes I use to this day. Back then, Chinese food was considered “exotic.” Traveling to “Chinatown” to buy the necessary ingredients was the only way to find them. Over the past many years, it’s been exciting to watch as this and other “ethnic” foods have become readily available in mainstream supermarkets. The other big change we’ve seen is that Chinese cooking has made some healthy changes, with less fat than was formerly used, little or no monosodium glutamate (MSG), and the introduction of reduced-sodium soy sauce. If you’ve never made Chinese food - and even if you have - this delicious soup is a great place to start!
Hot ’n’ Sour Soup:
8 c. poultry stock, skimmed of fat
8 slices fresh ginger root, unpeeled (see Note)
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
6 green (“spring”) onions, sliced on the diagonal
1 red bell pepper (“capsicum”), sliced lengthwise into 1-in. strips 
1 c. sliced mushrooms (I reconstitute dried shitaki or other Asian mushrooms by soaking them in boiling water for 30 min.)
½ c. canned, sliced bamboo shoots, drained
½ c. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. chopped dried chili peppers, with seeds (for convenience, use chili pepper flakes)
2 tsp. sesame oil
Bring stock, ginger root, and peppercorns to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmering uncovered for 20 min. Strain through a fine sieve, discarding ginger root and peppercorns. Reduce heat to simmer. Add remaining ingredients, continuing to simmer 10 min. Serve at once. Serves 10 in small Oriental bowls, or 4 in Western-style bowls.
Note: Slice ginger lengthwise - not crosswise - to extract more flavor by maximizing its exposed surface area.

Skim fat from stock (see Index for How to Make Soup Stock)

Add slivered green onions ...

... Red bell peppers ...

... Sliced, reconstituted Chinese mushrooms ...

And a splash of rice wine vinegar!

Simmer (Bubble, bubble! No toil! No trouble!)

And ladle into bowls! It's hot! It's sour! It's good!

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