Chinese Hot & Sour Seafood Soup

* 1/4 pound lean pork, cut into ¼-inch cubes
* 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon cornstarch
* 1 Tablespoon brandy

* 10 dried black Chinese mushrooms

* ¼ cup cornstarch, mixed with ¼ cup water

* 8 cups (less the amount of the reserved mushroom liquid)pork or chicken stock
* 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
* 4 Tablespoons rice or white wine vinegar
* 2 small hot chili peppers (like Thai bird peppers), seeds removed and sliced into thin circles (or 1 jalapeno)–or more, if you like to break a sweat on the back of your head
* 1 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 teaspoon salt
* ¼ cup peeled and diced taro or potato
* 1 square of bean curd (tofu), sliced into ¼-inch cubes
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 2 green onions, sliced thin
* 1 Tablespoon sesame oil

Garnish: fresh cilantro, finely chopped (or green onion)

Marinate the pork in the soy, brandy, and cornstarch at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

Soak the mushrooms in warm water to cover for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, reserving liquid, and slice into thin strips. Discard any woody stems.

Mix mushroom liquid and stock in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, chili peppers, and salt–then blend in the cornstarch-water mixture and bring to a boil, so that it thickens. Add the pork, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add cubed taro or potato, the mushroom slices, and the cubes of bean curd. Cook 20 more minutes.

When ready to serve, keep at a simmer and slowly dribble in the beaten eggs. Don’t stir: you don’t want it to glop up in big pieces. When the egg strands float to the top, stir in the sesame oil and sliced green onions and serve immediately, ladling into bowls and garnishing with the cilantro or more green onions.

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