Autumn, and soon winter: The perfect time for cooking our families a hearty soup to warm up those cold bodies and bring some warm atmosphere into the home to keep the chill out.
One such winter warmer my family likes is an old Chinese favourite, the Hot and Sour Soup which I discovered by chance one evening when we were all dying for something warm but were too lazy to cook anything and ordered the soup from my local takeaway.
It does not take hours to prepare – in fact no more than 40 minutes. But if you’re anything like me, I love planning meals, shopping for ingredients and spending time in my kitchen. Call me mad, but to me my kitchen is the place where I pour a lot of love into my family’s well being.
What discerns the healthy Hot and Sour Soup from many others is its bold flavours which we recognise in ingredients like lily buds, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and finely ground white pepper. Before you attempt to cook this recipe, try ordering it from a local restaurant, so you can compare the difference. If you live in London, you can buy a lot of the items below at Chinese supermarkets such Wingip. Alternatively you have the option to order it from a local restaurant on sites like Hungry House, this way you can sample it before you commit to cooking!
To serve 4 people, you need a few bowls, a good chopping knife and a saucepan. That’s it. And, of course, the ingredients.
- ¼ cup dried tree ear fungus
- 12 dried lily buds
- 1 quart chicken broth
- Distilled white vinegar – 2 tbsp.
- Soy sauce – 2 tbsp.
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 ½ tsp. white pepper
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 tbsp. cornflour
- 2 eggs (preferably large)
- ½ cup shredded bamboo shoots
- ½ cup chicken or pork – cooked
- 1 cup shredded spiced dry tofu
- Chopped spring onions and coriander (Chinese parsley)
Fairly straightforward – nothing too complicated. I have found that my teenagers are a great help with this task, although any individual can do it by him-/herself.
- Start off by preparing the lily buds and dried tree ear fungus in 2 separate, smallish bowls. Cover the buds with boiling water and let it soften for about 10 minutes. Then cut off the tough bits and discard. The fungus should take no longer than 30 minutes to soften in the other bowl of boiling water. Rinse and chop once it’s soft.
- In a large saucepan bring the chicken broth to a boil, adding the salt, vinegar and soy sauce. Mix the cornflour with some water and add to the broth. Stir all the time. Let the soup thicken– no more than, say, 4 minutes.
- Beat the eggs and pour in a circular motion to the boiling soup. After 5 seconds turn off the heat and stir properly.
- At this point we’re ready to add the lily buds, chicken, bamboo shoots, tree ear fungus, tofu and pepper. Simmer for 2 minutes over medium heat and season with some additional vinegar, soy sauce and salt.
- Now we’re almost there. Take 4 bowls and divide the soup evenly. Drizzle some sesame oil and add the garnish – the coriander and spring onion.
Let four smiling faces be the judges!