Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hot and Sour!

It's cold. It's really cold. It's February out there. Usually, I have time to ease into it, but this year we skipped autumn and went directly to winter, and I am reeling from the shock. If you live in a genuinely cold climate, I don't know how you manage. I'm wearing socks to bed with two blankets a quilt and two cats. (I don't think the cats really help, but I can't convince them otherwise.)

Of course, I'm thinking about soup. There is nothing like soup when your feet feel like ice.

This is a hot and sour soup I've been considering for the past year. It's not authentic. It's a quick and dirty version of a hot and sour, but it's good.  I particularly like that it uses ingredients you can find in a regular supermarket. I'm sure it would be better if you used wood ear mushrooms instead of button mushrooms, but since it's a 45 minute drive to my closest Asian market, that makes this version just that little bit better.

It is also genuinely hot and sour. If you are used to the Americanized version of hot and sour, where they wave the vinegar bottle over it and give it a quick dash of pepper, this will be a revelation. You can, of course, reduce the amounts of vinegar and heat, and it will still be good, but the real full-bodied flavor is sinus-clearingly wonderful. 

And it only takes half an hour, start to finish. So you can start warming up even faster.

It looks almost as good as it tastes. 

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced, plus more for garnish
8 ounces ground pork
4 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 pound soft or firm tofu (not silken and not extra firm), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 or 5 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced (or substitute dried, rehydrated wood ear mushrooms)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste
2 large eggs
White or black pepper for garnish

starting with the pork
In the saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. You want to break up the pork into smaller pieces with a spoon, but don’t worry about breaking it down completely or cooking it through.

Add scallions, ginger and garlic
Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Taste the soup. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha sauce; if you want it more sour, add more vinegar.
pour in everything else
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. With the soup at a steady simmer, slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Divide the soup among 4 to 6 bowls and garnish each with a little sesame oil, scallion, and white or black pepper. Serve immediately. (Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The soup may take on a slightly different appearance, but it will taste just the same.)

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