Chinese Hot and Sour Soup
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
I had been at the market recently when I saw that Swanson’s has come out with a new line of variety broths, ready to use. The types I saw included the Chinese hot and sour, the Thai Ginger, and the Mexican tortilla soup broth. Now these are not heat and eat soups, but are broths which have been infused with flavors to make your soup making forays quicker and easier.
I thought “Why not?” and bought a carton of the Chinese hot and sour broth, along with a few ingredients suggested by the recipe on the back of the box. Originally I had planned to just make their recipe with the addition of wood ears to it, but as the cooking went along, I adjusted their recipe to suit my tastes and needs. That recipe is the one you will read here, not the version on the back of their carton. If you would like that recipe, it comes free when you buy the broth.
I do want to talk about the wood ears, which are also known as cloud ears, black fungus and sometimes even called black mushrooms. But do not mistake them for the black mushrooms that come dried which are actually just dried shiitake mushrooms. They may both be dried and be called the same thing, but they are not. But you can probably figure out when you look at the dried shiitakes because they do look like mushrooms, and the dried wood ears will appear very dark and almost unidentifiable except as little crumpled up black things.
You can buy them dried in packages at Chinese and Asian markets. They should be able to point them out to you if you need help identifying them or locating them. I don’t often see them called fungus anymore, probably because people might cringe when they see that word, even though it is nothing yucky or something to worry about. And I guess from a marketing perspective, “tree ears” and “wood ears” might sound a little strange to the average person. “What? Trees have EARS?!?!?!” Well, trees do have ears. LOL I have seen them. And the next time you take a nice hike through your local park, woods, or forest and see little things sticking out of the bark of trees, that’s what it is.
It is true the cloud ears are a bit different from the wood ears, but almost identical and can be used interchangeably. Sometimes they can have a little bit of a tough section on them which needs to be trimmed off, but it is easily seen and you can do that after you soak them. To prepare, I heat up cup of water to near boiling and drop the wood ears in there, and let them sit on the counter top for about fifteen minutes. They will double in size and soften up. At that point you can drain them and rinse them off. Then stack them and thinly julienne or slice into match-stick strips for use. They are almost always used sliced up like that.
I often find them in hot and sour soup, as well as a number of different Hunan stir-fries, especially stir-fries involving pork, such as Hunan pork. They have a mushroom-like flavor and chewy texture, almost like the texture of calamari. I love them, so you can understand why I added them to this recipe even though the package did not call for them. But if you can’t find them, fear not! Just omit them and go ahead without. But if you can find them, please make a point of treating yourself to this wonderful food.
Bill and I both enjoyed this soup, and hot and sour is one of our favorites to order when dining out. I am hoping that using the boxed broth will make having this delightful soup be a bit more accessible to those who enjoy Asian food. I would buy their broth and make this again. (And I do want to mention that this is NOT a sponsored post but simply my honest opinion to my readers)
Chinese Hot and Sour Soup
- 1 (32-ounce) carton Swanson’s Chinese Hot and Sour flavor infused broth
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2-cup cold water
- 1 teaspoon dark toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup dried wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated in a cup of boiling water
- 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and julienned
- 1/2 cup bamboo shoots, julienned
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 8 ounces cubed extra-firm tofu
- 1/3 pound boneless pork chop, julienned (cut into matchstick slices)
- 1 large pastured organic egg, lightly beaten
- sriracha sauce and black pepper (amount to taste)
- 3 cups crisp fried wonton strips/skins (optional)
- Soak the dried wood ears for about fifteen minutes in boiling water, until they expand and soften up; drain and rinse. Chop them into juliennned slices (thin matchstick strips) and set aside.
- Stir together the Swansons broth, the chicken broth, and the cornstarch slurry, sesame oil and vinegar.
- Add the sliced wood ears, shiitake mushrooms, and bamboo shoots; bring to a boil and stir constantly until soup thickens slightly, about one minute.
- Stir in the scallions, tofu, and pork chop strips. Simmer for 5-7 minutes or until the pork is cooked thoroughly.
- Begin stirring the soup in one direction, creating a whirlpool of sorts. Slowly add beaten egg in a thin stream to the soup. It should cook instantly and if you don’t stir backwards, the egg should be pulled into fine strands the way egg is supposed to be in Asian soups.
- Taste the soup and if you like it a little spicier you can add some sriracha and/or black pepper. The boxed broth does have a surprising bit of bite, so do taste first.
- Serve hot with crisp wonton skins if desired. You can make those by cutting wonton skins into strips, then deep frying until they puff and brown, then draining.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com
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