all souped up…

A few posts ago, I mentioned I had soup three times in just a week. Shortly after I made my French onion soup, I cooked up another of my favorites: hot and sour soup. This was my second for the week.

Often given as a free side order to your meal at a Chinese restaurants, hot and sour is clearly on my top five. Most places will offer you a choice between this and egg flower soup.

Ubiquitous as it may be, finding an authentic and great tasting bowl is often challenging. Any person is lucky to find one that perfectly combines the delicate balance of hot and sour. It is common to receive a steaming cup that is either too sour or not enough tang. Worst of all, the soup itself is too gloppy—almost the consistency of maple syrup.

A “good” hot and sour soup, of all things, should be slightly thick. This is achieved with the addition of a cornstarch slurry and by dropping well-beaten eggs in to the mixture. The hot part comes from ground white pepper, while (Chinese) black vinegar gives the soup it’s recognizable sharp taste.

Other common ingredients are dried lily buds, wood ear/fungus (mushrooms), bamboo shoots, and tofu. You can also add chicken, pork, or shrimp to make it more substantial. Since the restaurants give this stuff away for free while you patiently await your meal, they tend to skimp on the ingredients. The result: you get sucky soup.

As you can see from the photo below, my version is chock full of the good stuff.  With a little red pepper added for extra heat, it is practically an entire meal on its own.

And after a couple of bowlfuls later, it pretty much was_my dinner.

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