Hot and Sour Soup

I pretty much always order hot and sour soup when I go out for Chinese (which admittedly is about once a year), but I think I’ve only made it at home a couple times, and the first was way back in high school. Two weeks ago I decided to attempt it again using a recipe from a Chinese cookbook I’ve had for a few years and it was awful. I absolutely hate wasting food but I threw out the entire pot after two bites. I’m not sure what ruined it, but it was beyond being rescued. Bummer.

Today I had a much better strategy. I used Jen’s recipe and bought Chinese red wine vinegar (instead of trying to fake it with rice vinegar like last time). It was GOOD! I doubled the vinegar (4 tbsp instead of the 2 listed in the recipe below) because I like it really sour, and I also added some dried bean curd sheets because I love them and now that we live really close to a huge Asian grocery store I can do stuff like that. If you’re vegan, I think the bean curd sheets would be a nice stand-in for the eggs, but in this case I used both. I love that I have cloud ears and lily buds just hanging out in my pantry now, so any time the mood strikes I can make it again! Also, if you have any pickled mustard greens handy, they’re pretty good stirred in too!

About the ingredients: Cloud ears are a dried black fungus. Tiger lily buds are pale yellow, unopened lily flowers. These, along with dried bean curd sheets and Chinese red wine vinegar should be available at a well-stocked Asian grocery store. Regular red wine vinegar would probably be fine too. If you have fresh shiitakes, use them! If you can only find dried, soak them in hot water for about half an hour, then squeeze out the liquid, cut off the tough stems, and slice thinly.

Recipe:
(adapted from Use Real Butter)

1/2 cup cloud ears
1/2 cup dried tiger lily buds
1/2 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
6 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup tofu, cut into 1-inch strips
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, in strips
1 1/2 ounces bean curd sheets
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Chinese red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce

Put the cloud ears, lily buds, and bean curd sheets (torn into bite-sized pieces) into separate bowls. Cover with boiling water and let stand for about half an hour, then drain.
Cut the lily buds into 1″ strips and roughly chop the cloud ears.

Put the broth (or water) in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the cloud ears, lily buds, and mushrooms and boil for 10 minutes.

Stir in the tofu, bamboo shoots, and soy sauce. Combine the corn starch with 1/4 cup water and stir until smooth. Stir into the soup. Stir in the bean curd sheets. Pour the eggs into the soup in a slow, steady stream, stirring the soup constantly so the eggs cook into thin ribbons. Stir in the white pepper, sesame oil, and vinegar and adjust seasonings to taste.

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