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Dinner Together: Chinese take-out staple easy to make at home

Hot and sour soup is so quick to make at home, you won't have to resort to take out for dinner. (Lorie Hutson / The Spokesman-Review)
Hot and sour soup is so quick to make at home, you won't have to resort to take out for dinner. (Lorie Hutson / The Spokesman-Review)

Hot and sour soup is a Chinese take-out staple that has a way of warming you from the inside out. And since it’s been so easy to pick up with the rest of those red-and-white boxes, it might come as a surprise how simple and quick it is to make at home.

Chef, restaurant owner and cookbook author Joanne Chang stripped the recipe down to the barest essentials, so you won’t have to make a trip to an Asian market (or even the Asian cooking section at the grocery store) to make it. By all means, if you have wood ear or Chinese black mushrooms, use them. It will only add to the depth of flavor. However, you really don’t need them to make a delicious weeknight supper on the fly.

Most recipes include cornstarch for thickening, but Chang relies instead on an extra egg. The federal government’s new dietary guidelines released last week gave a green light to egg consumption, so why not indulge.

Substitute vegetable broth and lose the pork for a vegetarian-friendly soup. The eggs mean it’s not a choice for vegan eaters. If you’re making the soup for someone who has Celiac disease or who chooses not to eat gluten, be sure to substitute tamari for the soy.

Chang uses Sriracha to give this hot and sour soup its signature sting. Use sambal oelek if you want to turn up the heat a bit. Be sure to pick straight rice vinegar and not the seasoned version, which contains salt and sugar which will alter the flavor of the finished soup.

Hot and Sour Soup

From “Flour, Too” by Joanne Chang

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, smashed and minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

4 scallions, white and green parts, minced, plus more for garnish

8 ounces ground pork

4 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock

1 pound soft or firm tofu (not silken and not extra firm), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 or 5 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced (or substitute dried, rehydrated wood ear mushrooms)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2/3 cups rice vinegar (not seasoned), or to taste

3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste

2 large eggs

White or black pepper for garnish

In the saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. Break up the pork into smaller pieces with a spoon, but don’t worry about breaking it down completely or cooking it through.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Taste the soup. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha sauce; if you want it more sour, add more vinegar.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. With the soup at a steady simmer, slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Divide the soup among 4 to 6 bowls and garnish each with a little sesame oil, scallion, and white or black pepper. Serve immediately. (Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The soup may take on a slightly different appearance, but it will taste the same.)

Yield: 4-6 servings

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