Saturday, February 5, 2011

Recipe: Cold Day? Hot Soup!

 A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting. – Abraham Maslow

Gerard David, Virgin and Child with
the Milk Soup
c.1500 (Wikimedia Commons License)

Since this is a soup entry, you can assume I'm not going to talk about painting. No, this post is about one fine, first-rate soup. It is a Chinese concoction and will send you rummaging around the back of your local Asian grocery in among all the dried weird things. Cellophane noodles, cloud ear fungus, dried shiitakes...yum! Seriously.

This recipe was in a cookbook I once had in my possession. It left me—with many other household articles—a decade ago in a breakup. I'm no longer peeved, because I re-discovered this recipe!!! Apparently I cared more for the soup than the person. Try this and you may agree (if you know of whom I speak). 

It took me 6 years to locate it. I found it on The original is at It's a lot of ingredients, but it comes together quickly. I've simplified the ingredients somewhat.

Szechuan Hot &  Sour Soup

1 tbsp peanut oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 garlic clove
1 tsp ginger root (about  2 slices)
1/2 cup pork, shredded
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, shredded
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
12 dried tree ear fungus (also called cloud ears)
1/2 package of cellophane noodles (sold in 2 "servings")
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup mushroom soaking liquid
2 tbsp dry sherry
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 tofu pad (a package generally contains 2 pads)
1/4 cup green onions
2 eggs
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/4-1 tsp chili oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt and more pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

A note on the noodles: Cellophane noodles are bean starch noodles and when cooked are transparent. When dry, they are like little bits of wire. Since they are long, cut into shorter lengths with kitchen shears before cooking, if desired. It certainly makes the soup easier to eat.


Rehydrate the shiitake and cloud ears for 20 minutes, in hot water to cover. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the water. Chop into strips. 

Mince the garlic and ginger root. Shred the pork loin. Shred the bamboo shoots. Combine the cornstarch and the water. Chop the green onions. Lightly beat the eggs.

Heat oil in wok (or soup pot), add the garlic and ginger, stirring 30 seconds.

Add the pork, cooking until it loses its pink colour. Add the soy sauce, cook for 1 minute more. Add bamboo shoots, shiitakes, tree ear fungi, and stir quickly for 1 minute.

Stir in chicken broth, sherry, and vinegar. Add in the cellophane noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Stir cornstarch/water mix one last time and add it to the soup. Add the tofu and bring the soup to a boil.

Turn the heat to low, add the green onions.

Add the beaten eggs in a slow stream, stirring as you pour to make ribbons.

Add the sesame oil, chili oil and pepper. Stir in cilantro if desired. Season to taste and serve immediately.

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