Hot and Sour Soup

Recipe adapted from Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook
Recipe adapted from Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

2 medium pork chops, or 2 chicken thighs, partially frozen (to facilitate slicing), de-boned and cut into slivers – divided use
1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari, if you need to be wheat-free) (see note)
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add a couple of tablespoons of the sliced pork chops/chicken and lower heat to a simmer. Let cook ~20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. In a bowl, coat the rest of the meat with soy sauce and cornstarch, and set aside.

Tree Ears, dried
Tree Ears, dried

1/4 cup dried tree ears
1/4 cup dried lily buds
5 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 dried Chinese red pepper (optional — for use later in the recipe)

Tree Ears after soaking
Tree Ears after soaking

Soak the above in separate bowls, in freshly-boiled water, about 20 minutes or until they have softened and expanded.
When soft, remove tough parts from tree ears and stems from mushrooms, and slice everything thinly.

Dried Lily Buds
Dried Lily Buds

1 12-oz package firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch julienne, or 1/2-inch cubes (do not use if avoiding soy)
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 scallions, sliced thinly

Everything sliced up and ready to go.
Everything sliced up and ready to go.

Add tree ears, lily buds, mushrooms and tofu to the soup, along with seasonings. Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add scallions and the rest of the meat. Cook 10 minutes more.

2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional black pepper for serving

While soup is simmering, combine cornstarch and water in another bowl. Beat eggs gently.

Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Add sliced hot red pepper if using. When boiling, add cornstarch and water mixture and stir until lightly thickened. Turn off heat and immediately pour in beaten eggs in a thin, slow stream, stirring with a fork in a clockwise direction. Stir in black pepper.

Serve hot, with additional vinegar and pepper on the side so diners can adjust the flavors to their taste.

As you can see, I have not mastered the art of pouring the eggs in as they don’t show up as silky, distinct threads in the soup. I know there *is* an art to doing it, because I was able to do it once before. I still need to figure out what I did right. 🙂

Note: Salt could be substituted any time soy sauce or tamari is called for in this blog, just realize that the color and flavor of the finished dish would be very different from the original.

This recipe can easily be converted to a vegetarian/meatless one, simply by omitting the pork/chicken.

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