This is the recipe as taught in the Main Line School Night [winter, 2005] class on Regional Chinese Cooking by Betty Foo, chef & co-owner of the Hunan Restaurant in Ardmore, PA. Betty and her husband are from Hunan and have returned to visit, so the recipe is authentic to the region, both by family history, by recent comparison, and by my own review of Chinese regional cookbooks. Originally a Sichuan regional specialty, hot and sour soup has become a staple at every chinese restaurant, no matter what regional style they claim as a specialty. Clearly, as with many soups, individual variations are easy and can vary the flavor considerably. One of the ways I judge any chinese restaurant the first time I eat there is by the quality of their hot and sour soup ... this one is superb! To make a kosher meat version, replace the pork with (kosher) chicken or turkey and replace the broth with a kosher broth (watch the salt if you use a commercial broth). To make a vegetarian version, use a vegetable broth and add a variety of sliced fresh mushrooms (e.g., shiitake, oyster). To make it vegan, use the above substitutions for vegetarian and skip the eggs. Recipe makes about 48 oz of soup, so you can serve 4 @ 12 oz or 6 @ 8 oz. October 2008 -- addendum. Thanks to all the fellow recipezaar foodies who have tried this recipe ... there have been two major issues raised: the amount of vinegar and the spiciness. Re the vinegar, I went back and asked Betty Foo about the "white distilled" vs "rice" vinegar. So far as she knows, both are the same acidity (5%, marked on the bottle) and while the taste is different (the rice vinegar provides a more subtle flavor), they "should be" equivalent. She noted that rice vinegar comes in a seasoned and unseasoned version (for Marukan, look at the label and the cap color to see the difference), but this shouldn't affect the acidity the vinegar provides. I'll make versions with both vinegars and update this note with some recommendations if I taste a significant difference. Re the spiciness, as noted, this soup comes from Sichuan, known for its love of spiciness. It may be more than you are used to, so by all means, feel free to adjust the pepper components (and other components) to your taste. Also, re substituting fresh mushrooms for the dried, you should know that the dried mushrooms tend to give a more intense and woodsy flavor than fresh ... the opposite of the situation with fresh herbs vs dried. Don't be surprised if you prefer the recipe done with dried mushrooms! Re the ginger, it should be added at step 11, with other spices. It adds to the "hot" flavor by infusing the broth and the pieces add to the texture. You could, if you wanted to increase the "hot" of the pepper and the crunch of the veggies, divide the ginger and add some at the end as a garnish. I prefer not to, simply because I prefer the hot and sour components to be more of a blended flavor ...
- 1⁄2 cup dried lily buds (day lilies)
- 1⁄2 cup dried mushroom ("wood ears" or "tree ears")
- 1⁄2 lb firm tofu, julienned (this will usually be 1 block or cake of tofu)
- 3⁄4 cup pork, finely julienned (see comments for vegetarian alternative)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1⁄2 cup bamboo shoot, julienned (canned or fresh)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1⁄2 cup water
- 5 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
- 5 ounces soy sauce (see comments)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder (see comments)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ground
- 1 teaspoon white pepper, ground
- 6 cups chicken broth (see comments for vegetarian version)
- 2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons gingerroot, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional, made from toasted sesame seeds preferred)
- Clean the dried day lilies, soak them in warm water for about 20 minutes.
- Cut off the hard, tough tip of the stem and then cut the day lilies in half lengthwise.
- Clean and soak the wood ear mushrooms in warm water for about 20 minutes, then cut into small pieces. To clean, just wipe with a damp cloth -- don't soak or wash!
- Bring the chicken broth to a boil and then add the pork (or vegetarian alternative -- see below), skimming the surface of any fat.
- Cook the pork for 3-4 minutes, until the broth comes to a boil again.
- Add the tofu, mushroom pieces, bamboo shoots, and day lilies.
- Let the pot return to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a low boil.
- Add the soy sauce, spices, vinegar, salt and sugar.
- Taste the soup, adjusting the vinegar (you may need to modify up or down by an ounce) for the "sour" and salt for balance.
- Mix the corn starch and water to create a paste for thickening.
- Add the corn starch mixture slowly, stirring constantly.
- Drizzle the beaten eggs in slowly while stirring, so that you get "strings" of egg.
- Turn off the heat.
- Presentation -- ladle the soup into bowls, then garnish with 1/2 tsp of scallion per bowl and a drizzle of sesame oil.
- Comments on ingredients & substitutions:.
- Dried lily pods and wood ears (also called "tree ears", "black fungus" or "Hu Bei") available in most oriental markets.
- Chicken stock -- use home made or a low sodium canned variety. For Vegetarians use a Vegetarian Chicken stock or a Vegetable Stock.
- Pork -- For kosher alternative, use shredded chicken or turkey; for vegetarian alternative, replace pork with a mix of fresh flavorful mushrooms, e.g., shiitake, oyster, or portobellos.
- Soy sauce -- Betty uses regular soy sauce -- if using a "lite soy" variety, you may have to adjust the amount of salt to taste.
- Vinegar -- the vinegar is the essence of the "sour" aspect of this soup, and distilled white vinegar gives you the strongest taste; rice vinegars, wine vinegars, apple cider vinegars, etc, will either be too dilute (not enough acidity) or add extraneous flavors.
- Garlic -- garlic powder is preferred in this recipe, but if you choose to use cloves, leave them whole, add them only to flavor the chicken broth and remove them before adding other ingredients.
- Sesame oil -- adds a shimmer and smoky flavor to the final product. Chinese sesame oil is typically from toasted seeds; Japanese is typically untoasted, so the flavor will be subtly different.