Szechuan hot and sour SOUP

Szechuan hot and sour SOUP

Jamie Oliver just posted his hot and sour soup and it’s sizzling on the Net as fans are picking it up, saying how wonderful it is.

It does look enticing in pictures, and maybe because it was Jamie Oliver who posted the recipe to begin with; it’s catching on like wildfire.

Going through the ingredients, however, I’m laughing to myself. I cook this soup on a regular basis, but a pared down version, minus the vinegar and chili, so it’s neither sour nor spicy. The norm is to thicken the soup with cornstarch and voila! I’ve got a simple, nice comforting broth.

In Asia where soup is a constant, especially for the ethnic Cantonese Chinese, there’s soup that’s been double boiled for hours over a steamer, herbal soups for energy, soups to cool you down, soups for flu and soups for what-have-you, the list goes on. The most basic is probably what we dub ABC soup, or what Westerners know as Chicken Soup. I don’t know why we call it ABC – maybe because it’s just three basic ingredients – chicken, carrots and potatoes?

To be fair, probably making an apple pie or cheese dip is probably nothing special either, but over here we actually look up recipes for those too.

Since I happen to have Shiitake mushroom in my fridge anyway, I gave Jamie’s recipe a go, and that evolved into my take of Szechuan hot and sour soup.

Too lazy to get the pestle and mortar out so chopped up a couple cloves of garlic, a thumb of ginger and some bird’s eye chili as finely as possible and sauted the lot in a pot. Apart from Shiitake mushrooms, I added thinly sliced pieces of chicken (not a fan of bamboo shoots) for something to chew on.

Two cups of chicken stock into the pot and later, after it started simmering lightly, threw in some firm taufoo that’s been cubed … and I’m almost done.

When the soup started bubbling, drizzled an egg in slowly for egg ribbons as I didn’t want to wash another bowl after beating the egg; I used a fork to quickly break up whatever that might have clumped together.

Add to that a bit of sea salt, some pepper, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil, rice vinegar for that sour kick ( I realise you need to put in quite a lot for the sourness to be more apparent) plus a little Shiao Xin wine to sweeten the deal and give the soup more body. And what do you know, I’ve made Szechuan soup for the soul!

Not as red as Jamie’s as I didn’t pound the chili but I’ll wager it’s spicier with the bird’s eye chilies!