Female. Lives in United States/Illinois/Chicago, speaks English. My interests are Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking/Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.
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United States, Illinois, Chicago, English, Female, Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking, Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Help for Stuffed Post-Holiday Stomachs: Hot and Sour Soup

We spent the Christmas holiday with Win's family in North Carolina and were treated to more delicious meals and special desserts than I can possibly count. As I've mentioned before, Win's parents are excellent cooks and bakers. They focus on using quality ingredients and striking a perfect balance between healthy eating and decadent taste. Over the course of the past few days we were treated to Win's mom's classic fried chicken, their delicious roast turkey, a really nice ham, and their wonderful prime rib. Win's dad baked loaves of bread and bran muffins for the carb cravers in the house. He made a sumptuous citrus tart based on a recipe by Karen Barker of The Magnolia Grill. And if that wasn't enough, there was pecan pie, berry cobbler, homemade fudge, and several kinds of Christmas cookies to tame even the strongest sweet tooth.

So in addition to enjoying the company of family, we certainly ate well this Christmas. Given all the delicious, larger meals we've been having, I thought now was the perfect time to whip up some hot and sour soup. This version of Hot and Sour Soup is light, basically healthy, and extremely easy to prepare. A winning combination for full post-holiday stomachs and tired Christmas cooks.

Hot and Sour Soup
Recipe based on one found in "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen"
Total Prep and Cook Time: About 30-40 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

8 fresh medium mushrooms
2 10.5-ounce cans condensed chicken broth and 2 cans water
1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, drained
1 14-ounce package of tofu, drained
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch or 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cold water
2 eggs
4 scallions, sliced (optional)

1. Wash the mushrooms. Slice them into thin slices and set aside.
2. Heat the chicken broth and water in a large pot over high heat. When it comes to a boil, add the mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Turn down the heat and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.
3. While the soup is cooking, cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. Add the tofu, vinegar, and soy sauce to the soup. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Mix the cornstarch or flour (either works fine) with the cold water in a small bowl until it becomes a thick paste. Add it to the soup and stir until the mixture boils and thickens a bit.
5. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Pour the beaten eggs slowly through the tines of a fork into the soup. The tines will help separate the eggs so that they cook in thin strands (rather than big lumps) in the soup.
6. If you would like to garnish with scallions, do so now and serve.

If you do a search of the web for hot and sour soup recipes, you'll find hundreds from which to choose. Is this version the most authentic? Probably not. Does it use the most complex and native Asian ingredients? No. But here's why I like it:

1. It's quick and easy.
2. All of the ingredients can be found easily at your local grocery store.
3. It is reasonably healthy.
4. And above all, it tastes great and is pretty close to some hot and sour soups I've had at restaurants. Again, it's not perfect but it's a terrific home approximation.

As you can tell from the photo at the top, I didn't garnish mine with scallions this time. I'm not a scallion fan, so unless I am making this for company I omit them. The bright green color adds a pretty jolt to each bowl of soup, so if you like scallions definitely go for it.

On a separate note, I highly recommend "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen" for any recent graduates, newlyweds, young singles or people new to cooking. We received this cookbook years ago as a wedding gift and it is full of fun recipes that are delicious, easy to make and don't require a huge kitchen or tons of fancy kitchen gadgets. Even now with a bigger kitchen and a somewhat bigger cooking repertoire, I still refer to it for some of my old favorite recipes.