酸辣湯 (suan la tang) Hot and Sour Soup actually it is Sour, Hot Soup if you translate it directly. While a lot of Taiwanese and Chinese soups are rather thin broths that are served at the end of a meal this is more of a whole meal in a bowl. It is as popular and ubiquitous in Taiwan’s roadside stalls as it is in American Chinese restaurants. With a couple of big differences. The first is it tastes far better in Taiwan. Second, in Taiwan it contains duck or pigs blood cake, which is difficult to find in the States. The blood cake, which is set with rice flour has a texture that almost squeaks when you bight through it and has a subtle, delicate flavor that has nice iron/mineral overtones. Well maybe three things really, there is one other ingredient often found in Taiwan that also is usually lacking in the US, though not as hard to procure. That would be dried daylily buds, 金針(jin zhen). Not nearly as exotic as the blood cake perhaps, but the buds provide a slight fruity, slight, dare I say, floral component to the soup.
While Hot and Sour Soup is pretty easy to get down at your local Chinese-American joint the results of homemade are far better and worth a little chopping. So don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients it goes quite quickly.
- 4 oz. Shredded pork loin
- 4 oz. firm tofu cut into thick matchsticks
- 4 oz of blood cake, cut into thick matchsticks (just substitute tofu or pork or both if you want or have to)
- 4 oz. canned bamboo shoots, cut into matchsticks
- 2 oz. (about 5) of dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked and shredded
- 5 dried black (or shiitake) mushrooms, soaked and sliced
- 10 dried lily buds, soaked
- 1/2 carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 chili pepper, chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 one inch piece of ginger, grated
- 5 cups of chicken stock
- 1/2 T. soy sauce
- 1/2 T. rice wine
- 1/2 t. of corn starch
- 4 T. black rice vinegar
- 4 T. white rice vinegar
- 2 T. soy sauce
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 T. or more of ground white or black pepper (or a bit of both)
- 4 T. corn starch mixed with 1/2 c. of cold water
- 1 T. of sesame oil
- some chopped green onions and or chopped cilantro to garnish
- Shred the pork loin and mix with the “Meat Marinade” ingredients (1/2 T. soy sauce, 1/2 T. rice wine, 1/2 t. of corn starch) and let sit for 20 minutes. Soak the wood ear mushrooms, black mushrooms and lily buds in hot water for at least ten minutes. Drain and shred the wood ear and slice the mushrooms and trim off any hard ends of the lilies. Chop all the other ingredients into their appropriate shape and forms.
- In a large pot combine the stock, minced garlic and grated ginger and bring to a boil. Stir in the meat, making sure it doesn’t stick together, simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the tofu, blood cake (if using), bamboo shoots, wood ear, black mushrooms, lily buds, carrot, green onions, and chili pepper to the pot. Add the vinegars, soy sauce, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the cornstarch water mixture and simmer until the soup has thickened, about 1 or 2 minutes.
- While stirring slowly pour in the beaten eggs, so they form a thin ribbons in the soup.
- Remove from the heat and add the sesame oil, garnish with a little chopped cilantro and/or chopped green onion and serve