Winter arrived here with a vengeance last week. The temperature dipped below zero, the winds blustered, the schools closed for a couple of days. Snow came a few days ago and covered the sidewalks and rooftops along with the cars parked on the street. As I look out my window now, the wind blows disintegrating chunks of snow off of tree branches and the window air conditioning units that remain, inexplicably, still installed in the building across the way.
We’ve begun to make our way into 2015. The weekend brought the undecorating of the tree, trips to furniture stores to sit awkwardly on couches and in chairs and consider which shapes and sizes of coffee tables might best suit our new living room. It also brought more specific discussion about a dog and a visit to a local shelter to get a sense of the place and the sorts of canines they rescue.
I’m not convinced the coldest, snowiest days of winter is the best time to bring a shelter dog into our lives when we’re unsure of just how housebroken they are and when neither we nor they are likely to want to linger outside for exercise. But I’ll admit it was a little bit tough to leave the shelter without bringing any of the dogs home with us.
January is a funny time of year that brings with it the dual desires for austerity and creature comforts. It can be tough to ween ourselves from the overindulgences of the holidays. When we’ve made our way inside after scrambling over snow piles and icy sidewalks, we rarely think “salad sounds good”
Which is where this hot and sour soup comes in. It’s exactly the sort of robust, flavorful, warm, brothy bowl of Chinese home cooking that I want when I come in from the cold.
It is based, ever so loosely, on Mama Chang’s hot and sour soup in Joanne Chang’s excellent Flour, Too, a book that is quickly becoming a favorite source for simple and satisfying savory dishes as well as showstopping sweets. (And for a book from a bakery, it’s surprisingly gluten-free friendly.)
I swapped in all sorts of ingredients–bacon for the ground pork, shiitakes for the button mushrooms, extra firm yellow tofu for the softer more traditional soup varieties–and adjusted the amounts based on what I had on hand. But I kept the basic flavor profile with ginger, scallions, and garlic forming the base and soy sauce (or tamari), rice vinegar, and sriracha bringing the salt, sour, and heat with a drizzle of sesame oil to round out the flavors.
It’s a wonderful soup for January, and I have a feeling I’ll be eating plenty more of it until the weather warms up.
Hot and Sour Soup
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil like canola or vegetable)
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 2- inch piece ginger peeled and grated
- 4 tablespoons scallions thinly sliced (a few reserved for garnish)
- 6 ounces bacon diced (or use ground pork)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms stems removed and thinly sliced, a big handful
- 10 ounces tofu firm or extra firm, in 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2/3 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 2 large eggs
- In a large saucepan, heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat, add the garlic, ginger, and scallions (except those reserved for garnish) and saute for about a minute, or until fragrant. Add the bacon and saute, stirring frequently until browned around the edges, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce (or tamari), sesame oil, and sriracha. Return to a simmer.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until the whites and yolks are blended, then stir into the simmering soup where they’ll form strands.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil.