Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rosie Makes Suanla Tang Or Hot And Sour Soup Courtesy Of Mrs. Chiang.

 Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!

 The Chinese New Year #4711 begins today, February 10, 2013.
This is the year of the Snake.

In honor of the Chinese,
who have given us a freakin' remarkable cuisine,
I offer you Hot and Sour Soup.

 The Hawthornes love a good Hot and Sour Soup
and although we have a plethora of China Macs on the beach,
 the quality of their soups is not consistent.
Admittedly, some are better than others at Hot and Sour Soup,
but I want authentic Hot and Sour Soup.

Enter Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook, my new BFF.

In case you haven't been following,
the Hawthornes have been enjoying many of Mrs. Chiang's dishes. 
So far, we have made the following:
Baicai Chao Rousi or Cabbage and Pork Shreds

Now, back to Hot and Sour Soup.
I truly hope I can do Mrs. Chiang's recipe justice.

According to Mrs. Chiang,
one cannot make authentic Hot and Sour Soupin the United States
because coagulated duck's blood is not available.
Quel domage!
Le sang coagulé de canard is a brown substance
that comes in chunks like bean curd
and has the consistency of raw liver.

According to the book,
the substance "tastes just as you would expect duck's blood to taste."
Thankfully, I have no expectations and I'm not going there.

Furthermore, the book continues:
"Mrs. Chiang's recipe is as close to the original as you can get,
and produces a delicious soup
with an exciting taste and unusual texture.
The thick broth teems with so many different kinds
of crunchy, chewy, slippery, and soft ingredients
that only a connoisseur would quibble about the duck's blood."

So's I ain't quibbling 'bout no stinkin' duck blood.

 I've followed Mrs. Chiang's recipes to the letter so far,
but this time, I'm having to make a few ingredient substitutions
and add a little of my own spin on this soup.

One thing I noticed in Mrs. Chiang's recipe
that I've never seen in the Hot and Sour Soups
in the American Chinese restaurants I've eaten in
is the addition of eggs.
Hmmm ...
I'm questioning this,
but then I think back onto this family's life style.
They had chickens.
They used everything.
They would use the eggs to enrich a soup.
This would be authentic Szechwan.

Mrs. Chiang's recipe calls for dried tree ears
and dried lily buds.
There is no Asian market on the Outer Banks,
so I was unable to procure dried lily buds.
The lily buds are added to dishes more for their crunchy texture
 than for their slightly musty flavor.
I was able to find dried porcinis and straw mushrooms,
which I subbed for the dried tree ears.
 Rosie's Hot and Sour Soup With Help From Mrs. Chiang.

A combination of dried and fresh mushrooms.
I used dried black fungus, dried porcini, and dried paddy straw mushrooms.
Just a few of each.
For the fresh mushrooms, I used shiitakes, criminis, and baby bellas.
Just a few of each.
1 quart chicken consommé
1 quart water and mushroom likker (Will explain later.)
2 pork chops
2 TB soy sauce
1 TB cornstarch
1/2 package tofu (7 ounces)
3 scallions
1 tsp salt
5 TB rice vinegar
5 TB white wine (I used Chardonnay.)
3 TB soy sauce
3 eggs
3 TB cornstarch
3 TB cold water
1 tsp freshly ground pepper

I combined the dried mushrooms- black, porcini, and straw, in a small bowl and poured boiling water over to cover.  Let the shrooms soak for at least 20 minutes.  Do not discard the liquid.  This is your mushroom likker.   When the mushrooms are soft, slice into thin strips. Add enough water to the shroom likker to make a quart.

Slice the fresh mushrooms into strips.

Bring the quart of chicken consommé and quart of water and oyster likker to a boil.
I used chicken consommé because I have quarts of it in the freezer.  You could substitute low-sodium chicken stock or broth. Mrs. Chiang used no chicken stock or consommé or oyster likker.  She used only water.  That addition was my little riff.

Slice the pork into slivers about 2 inches long and 1/8 inch wide.  I put my pork in the freezer for about 30 minutes before slicing.  You want the meat stiff, but not frozen.  Heh.  Twelve.

Put 3 tablespoons of the shredded pork in the boiling water/consommé/stock.  Let it simmer over moderate heat for 20 minutes.  This imparts both flavor and body to the soup.

Put the remaining meat shreds in a small bowl with a mixture of the tablespoon of cornstarch and two tablespoons of soy sauce. Toss to coat.

Slice the bean curd into 1/2-inch slivers.

After 20 minutes of simmering, add the mushrooms, bean curd, along with the salt, vinegar, wine, and soy sauce.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer.  Let gently rumble for 7 minutes.

Clean the scallions and slice into thin pieces.

After the 7 minutes, add the scallions and the rest of the meat to the pot, stirring the soup as you add the meat so the pork strips don't stick together.  Let gently boil for 2 more minutes.

While the soup is cooking, beat the eggs.
Combine the cornstarch and water.  Mix well.

After 2 minutes of boiling,  pour the beaten egg and the cornstarch mixture into the soup, stirring as you do so the eggs will form shreds, not lumps, while cooking.
When soup is slightly thickened, remove from heat.

Stir pepper into soup and serve.

Have extra vinegar, pepper, scallions, and sweet chili sauce on hand if one wants to doctor their own portions.

I jot things down.
Here's my "recipe:"

Here are the dried mushrooms I used.
I found the porcinis and straw mushrooms
in the produce section of Harris Teeter.
The dried black fungus I found at an Asian market
in Chesapeake last time we went up there.

Just a few shrooms of each variety.

Pour boiling water to cover the dried mushrooms.
Let soak 30 minutes or so until they soften up. 

 Slice the mushrooms thinly.

 Just a few crimini, shiitaki, and baby bella mushrooms.


I'm heating up a quart of chicken consommé and
my mushroom likker and enough water to make another quart.
 Bring to a boil.
Here's the bean curd I used.
Half the package.

Slice thinly and set aside.

Two pork chops.
I popped these in the freezer for about 30 minutes
to firm up.
We got our pork loins on sale
 at the Piggly Wiggly in Manteo for $1.99/pound.

It's much easier to cut thin strips
when your meat is slightly frozen.
Set aside.

When the broth comes to a boil,
add in about 3 TB of the pork.

Stir to separate pork.
Simmer for 20 minutes.

Combine 1 TB cornstarch with 2 TB soy sauce.

And mix well.

Add remaining pork strips to soy/cornstarch mixture.

Thinly slice three scallions.

And set aside.

Combine 1 tsp salt, 5 TB rice vinegar,
5 TB white wine, and 3 TB soy sauce.
(Pretend the rice vinegar is there.)

After 20 minutes of a low simmer ...

...  add in the salt, vinegar, and soy sauce ...

... the thinly sliced fresh shrooms ...

...  the soaked dried shrooms and ...

... the bean curd.

Gently boil for 7 minutes.

Have the remaining pork in the cornstarch/soy mixture
and the chopped scallions ready.

After seven minutes 
add in the scallions and ...

... the pork.

Stir to keep the pork from sticking together.

Cook two minutes.

Have ready 3 eggs in one bowl
and 3 TB cornstarch mixed with 3 TB cold water in another bowl.

Mix well.

After two minutes,
stir in cornstarch mixture and ..

... eggs.
Stir as you add in the eggs so they'll form shreds,
not lumps, while they're cooking.
Bring soup to a boil
and let it slightly thicken,
then remove from heat.

Add in 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

And serve.

A little drizzle of sweet chili sauce.

All the Hot and Sour Soups
I've had at Chinese restaurants are clear, thickened broths.
With no eggs.
I like the enrichment of the eggs,
but I prefer the clear broth I'm used to.

After a considerable amount of
next time I make this,
and I certainly will,
I'll leave out the eggs.
I want the clear broth.

The eggs are not necessary.
I prefer the clearer broth.
Sorry, Mrs. Chiang.

Perhaps I didn't do it correctly
when I poured in the eggs.
Maybe the soup wasn't hot enough
or boiling if it needed to be to quickly cook the eggs.
Mr. Hawthorne questioned adding the yolks.
I didn't.
Mrs. Chiang's family kept chickens for food.
Every bit would be used by the family,
including the yolk in the egg.

More freshly ground pepper.

A sprinkling of scallions.

Oh my.
I've made Hot and Sour Soup and it is very good.
Rosie is quite happy with herself.
And she's satisfied.

And you know what else?
We don't miss the coagulated duck's blood at all.

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