You'd think I've never met a soup I didn't love... Well, I do love soups; I love to make them and I especially love to eat them. I also judge a restaurant by its soups- if soups seem to be an afterthought, so might the rest of their food.
Hot and sour soup tops my list of foods to order in a Chinese restaurant. The hotter the better! This version begins with a Nina Simonds light version of the classical soup by substituting the usual pork with chicken. I go further by foregoing the meat and making it vegetarian. It's just as flavourful and perfect for a light lunch or dinner.
Don't let the list of ingredients scare you. All of the ingredients are available at your local Oriental grocer or at well stocked grocery stores.
To serve six.
12 cups of vegetable broth
1/2 cup rice wine or sake
8 slices of fresh ginger, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
8 green onions, trimmed and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
1 lb firm tofu, cut into 1" thick slices
2 1/2 tbps cornstarch
1/4 cup water
6 dried Chinese black mushrooms, softened in hot water for 20 minutes, stems removed and thinly julienned
1/4 cup dried wood ears, softened in hot water for 20 minutes, drained, hard ends trimmed and julienned
2 cups leeks, cleaned and julienned thinly
4 1/2 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (or substitute Worcestershire sauce)
3 tbsp soy sauce (for GF, look for a gluten free soy sauce)
2 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, thinly sliced and julienned
1 small hot red pepper, seeded and thinly julienned
3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten with two tbsp water
Gently simmer the rice wine, ginger and green onions in the vegetable broth for approximately 30 minutes. Wrap the tofu in paper towels, and place a heavy object on top. Let stand for 30 minutes to press out excess water, then cut into thin julienne strips about three inches long and 1/4 inch thick.
Remove the ginger and green onions from the broth. Mix the cornstarch with the 1/4 cup of water. Add the julienned tofu, black mushrooms, wood ears and leeks and heat to boiling. Boil for about two minutes, skim the surface to remove impurities.
Slowly add the cornstarch thickener, stirring constantly to prevent lumps and cook until the broth thickens. Add the black vinegar, julienned ginger, hot pepper, black pepper, sesame oil and salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Remove the soup from the heat and slowly add the beaten egg white, pouring it in a thin stream around the edges of the pot. Stir the soup in a circular motion so the egg forms streamers. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.