Hot and WHAT…? Hot and sour, one of my all-time favourite soups
Do you love Asian flavours as much as I do?
Then maybe you miss them as much as I do, too.
Even though Israel is technically IN Asia, it’s tough to get authentic-tasting Asian food here. Takeout places are hit and miss, mostly on the “miss” side of things… as in, I totally MISS delicious hot and sour soup. Yes, it looks disgusting (if you make it right). But the mix of flavours, of sweet, spicy, pungent, salty… well, it’s divine.
(And on the plus side, the hottest thing in Tel Aviv is kosher dim sum, and it actually tastes okay, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.)
Still, while the cool weather lasts a little longer here, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favourite soup recipes – to make, to share, to just lean over and inhale. It’s very, very fragrant. You can adjust the hotness and sourness to suit your family’s taste.
As with most of my favourite easy soups, this recipe is an approximation, not an actual scientific calculation of ingredients and quantities. Play with it. Have fun, and taste it as you go along, and the results will be edible at worst and mind-blowing at best!
My apologies if the recipe below reads like it’s micro-managing your every step. In truth, this soup is so ridiculously easy it doesn’t need a recipe, but the Jewish world has suffered too long with mediocre hot and sour soup. Try it once the real, homemade way and (hopefully) you’ll see!
If you want to make this recipe the gourmet way, you will take the time to slice the veggies matchstick-style as directed and it will turn out beautiful. You will slice the green onions diagonally so they are lovely. If you have 20 minutes, as I did today, just throw it all together. The seasonings are almost self-correcting to create the perfect blend of amazingnesses.
Delicious and Easy Hot and Sour Soup
Vegetables to prep – this is the hardest part of this soup, and it’s not that hard:
Try to obtain as many of the following as possible:
- 1 onion, cut into large-ish pieces (bigger than diced; imagine eating a piece when cooked and cut them to the size you like)
- 2-4 slices fresh ginger (or cubes of frozen Israeli ginger)
- 2-4 cloves fresh garlic, crushed (or frozen cubes, or what we call “jarlic”)
- 10-12 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (matchstick)
- ½ cup matchstick-sliced carrots
- ½ cup red pepper, cut up into nice, soup-sized pieces (optional)
- ½ cup frozen corn kernels
- 2 baby bok choy heads (in a pinch, substitute Romaine)
- leaves removed, shredded, and set aside
- stems sliced like celery
- Tin of bamboo shoots, if desired and available, matchstick-sliced
- Cubes of very firm tofu, sliced seitan or fully-cooked chicken or turkey (hint: the texture is delightful if you freeze tofu ahead of time)
Seasonings – mmm… the good stuff:
- 6 cups flavourful pareve, chicken or beef broth, seitan cooking water, or anything flavourfully neutral
- 4 tbsp good soy sauce (shoyu or a nice brand, not no-name)
- 2 tbsp mirin if available, or 1tbsp dry sherry if not, but it’s better with mirin
- TO TASTE: 4 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (hint: “seasoned” = “sugar,” but a bit of that is okay)
- TO TASTE: 1 tsp tabasco sauce, sriracha and/or 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- TO TASTE: 1 tbsp white or black pepper
- ¼ cup water or cooled broth
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 2-3 eggs, beaten
- Chopped green onions for garnish
- Toasted sesame oil, for garnish
How to make it:
- In a wok or large cooking pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add protein (chicken, turkey, tofu chunks, seitan) and stir-fry until almost cooked (for tofu/seitan, until lightly browned). Add a bit of soy sauce and cook until slightly browned. Remove from wok.
- In large cooking pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and stir with a little salt until slightly softened.
- Add firm vegetables: bok choy STEMS, carrots, red pepper. Cook 10 minutes on med-high until slightly softened.
- Add soft vegetables: bamboo shoots, corn, bok choy LEAVES, mushrooms, other veg as desired. Cook 5 more minutes.
- Add protein (tofu, seitan or chicken, whatever), garlic, ginger, and stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Add all “seasonings”, including broth/water, and raise heat to medium-high. Cover. Cook 20 minutes or until carrots (they’re the hardest) are almost soft.
- Taste the soup! Adjust seasonings to your own preference now – you won’t be able to once it’s thickened! If soup is bland, add more vinegar and/or soy sauce. If not spicy enough, add more red pepper or tabasco – or both! This is personal taste, literally.
- Prepare a “slurry” by mixing corn starch with ¼ cup water until it’s opaque/milky. I use a clear glass so I can make sure I have stirred the whole thing well. Blobs of corn starch will turn into blobs of snot in your soup (more a problem with potato starch at Pesach time).
- Prepare egg mix: in a glass, beat two eggs until scrambled. In the picture here, you can see (l-r): eggs from Step 9, seasonings from Step 6, and corn starch from Step 8.
- Turn down heat to just below medium. Pour in slurry, stirring constantly until corn starch “gels” and soup thickens – usually only about a minute or two. If soup looks powdery, keep cooking!
- Add green onions now if you want them slightly softened. Add them at the end if you want them for a pretty garnish. Your choice!
- Add scrambled egg mixture, stirring gently once or twice around in a single direction. Cover pot and allow to cook about 1 minute to set the egg. Remove from heat.
- Serve with a “dot” of toasted sesame oil (not raw sesame oil, please) swirled on top of each bowlful. (if you have access to any Asian spicy oils, these might be nice instead!)
- Ess, ess, ess…
If you try it, or if you’ve got any tricks of your own, please let me know!
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