Every week on Food52, Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.
Today: A Chinese restaurant classic strips off its winter coat, and you get the post-holiday soup you've been waiting for.
Hot and sour is what we hanker for when we're chilled and worn -- or when we've eaten 8 kinds of potatoes in a week -- but it rarely lives up to its name.
Let's blame the cornstarch. Restaurants and recipes inevitably use it as a thickener, and we accept this without asking why. (What's our problem?) Yes, cornstarch plumps up the broth, but in doing so puts a hazy, viscous layer between us and the sour, spicy sting we crave. Flavors go muddy and dim, like listening to Les Mis with cotton balls in our ears.
Luckily, Joanne Chang has never been shackled by everyone else's expectations (at Myers + Chang, she makes genius scallion pancakes out of pizza dough). Her mother's version of hot and sour got her off to a good start: "No cornstarch, lots of egg to thicken, really bright and pungent," Chang told me.
More: Another soup to cure the winter blues: Barbara Lynch's Spicy Tomato Soup.
She took it further and made it her own, loosening tradition without compromising all that's good about it. She subbed button mushrooms for the traditional wood ear, ground pork for strips of loin, and skipped lily buds and bamboo shoots altogether. "I didn't always have easy access to Asian markets," Chang said. "The important part to me was the broth."
And the broth is everything you want it to be, but can never find. Don't get stressed out by the ingredient list -- all the effort is in gathering, and chopping and slicing a few things. Once you start cooking this soup, you're nearly done. Just watch.
First, sauté ground pork in garlic, ginger, and a lot of minced scallions. It's going to smell cozy and cleansing. (If you keep kosher, ground chicken or turkey would be a reasonable substitution, but don't go too lean.)
Pour in chicken broth; warm all that up. Next add your tofu and mushrooms, heat them through too.
Next go in all your hot, sour, and salty seasonings -- Sriracha and soy, rice vinegar and sesame oil, a lot of black pepper.
Whisk in egg while it's still very hot, watch ribbons form and spin through the broth. Done.
So if your bones are cold: Make this soup. If the house is, suddenly, just a little too quiet: Make this soup. If you're looking for comfort and adrenaline and strength: Make this soup.
Adapted slightly from Flour, Too (Chronicle Books, 2013)
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced, plus more for garnish
8 ounces ground pork
4 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 pound soft or firm tofu (not silken and not extra firm), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 or 5 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced (or substitute dried, rehydrated wood ear mushrooms)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste
2 large eggs
White or black pepper for garnish
1. In the saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. You want to break up the pork into smaller pieces with a spoon, but don't worry about breaking it down completely or cooking it through.
2. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Taste the soup. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha sauce; if you want it more sour, add more vinegar.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. With the soup at a steady simmer, slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Divide the soup among 4 to 6 bowls and garnish each with a little sesame oil, scallion, and white or black pepper. Serve immediately. (Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The soup may take on a slightly different appearance, but it will taste just the same.)
Photos by Mark Weinberg
This article originally appeared on Food52.com: Joanne Chang's Hot and Sour Soup