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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Suan La Tang - Hot and Sour Soup

There is something that engulfs my soul each time I make a meal like this.  I've had this type of soup before in restaurants, but I've never enjoyed it as much as I did this homemade version.  I added the same type of seaweed found in miso soup.  I don't quite know what it's called because the package was in Korean, but it's definitely seaweed and not kelp.
This soup has all the functional elements working together to make me feel happy again.  It has the heat from the chiles, the hot temperature, the tang from the vinegar, the complete meatiness of the shiitake mushrooms, and the green slippery seaweed.  Not to mention how beautiful it becomes at the very last minute when the beaten egg is stirred in.  It goes from a watery pot of strangeness to a blooming delicacy.
I can't really cite a recipe that I followed because I didn't use one.  I followed the basic guidelines for hot and sour soup.. which involve egg, corn starch, vinegar, tofu (in this case, paneer), and mushrooms.  The rest was all me.
Needless to say I blew myself away with this one.
Serves 3-4
8 dried shitake mushrooms soaked in 2 cups hot water for 15 minutes
1 handful dried seaweed, rehydrated and cut with kitchen shears
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 tsp white pepper
2 Thai chiles, chopped
2 pinches angel hair chile
2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
3/4 cup paneer or firm tofu, cubed
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 cloves garlic grated
1 Tbsp corn starch mixed with some cold water
5 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 eggs, beaten
chopped scallions
drizzle sesame oil
1.  Heat the stock, white pepper, celery, and chiles in a pot.
2.  Meanwhile, slice the soaked shiitakes and strain the soaking water.
3.  Add the cut seaweed and sliced mushrooms along with their strained soaking water to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for about 5 minutes.
4.  Add the soy sauce, paneer,  and peas and simmer a few more minutes.  Add more water if necessary.
5.  Add the garlic and corn starch mixture.  Heat through, stirring.  The corn starch is for thickness.  Add more if you like it thick.. less if you like it thin.  I like mine thin.  Do this for a minute or two.
6.  Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar and beaten eggs.  
Cover until ready to serve.
Serve garnished with some chopped scallions and a few drops of toasted sesame oil.

Enjoy hot... very hot.. and very spicy!
This meal is mostly balanced according to the elements.  It's served in a broth with seaweed and egg (water), mushrooms (earth), garlic, chile, and paneer (metal), and the sour element (wood) from the vinegar.  I suppose there's a fire element missing, but all you need to do is drink a glass of wine and you have it made.
Usually there is some sort of meat added but I wanted it to be semi-vegetarian and I didn't quite feel the need to add any meat.  If I did, I would have chosen ground turkey because it's rather neutral and would absorb the sour and spicy flavors of the broth.  The paneer, mushrooms, and eggs made it more than meaty enough for me.

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