A Fresher, Better Hot and Sour Soup
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."