Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pantry Surfing: Chinese Crab & Mushroom Soup

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust

It’s not that I don’t go grocery shopping anymore. I do. I swear.

But isn’t it nice when you can go into your pantry and pull out what you need to make something unusual and wonderful? This takes two things: a diverse pantry, and some basic knowledge.

We do this all the time with our “native” North American/Western European influenced cuisine. You go to the fridge and pantry, pull out some stuff and cook. If we didn’t have that basic understanding of what goes with what we would stand in our kitchen, frozen in fear and starve.

I’ve talked about this “knowledge” before. The more you cook diverse cuisines the more you understand what ingredients go into certain dishes. Also, the more you cook outside your normal cuisine the more likely it is that you have an international pantry that lets you cook more diverse food. It’s kind of a “Catch-22.”

Here’s your “TIL” for the day: Where does the term Catch-22 originate?

It’s from a novel set in World War II called Catch 22, written by Joseph Heller in 1961. In the novel, one of the characters describes a problem facing pilots who request a mental evaluation for insanity, hoping to escape flying dangerous missions. If you’re sane enough to want an evaluation, then you’re not insane; ergo, the insane won’t ask. Catch-22.

It’s not insane to have a well stocked pantry, although I have bought what some would categorize as “crazy” stuff. Some recipes do call for the unusual, or perhaps better phrased, not the ordinary for us.

My advice? If you spot something weird, buy it. Even if you don’t know how to use it. Find out how later.

This one really doesn’t have a lot of weird ingredients. The only one that stands out are the dried shiitake mushrooms. They’re cheap, and appear in thousands of recipes.

The only other ingredient that you may not have is siriacha sauce. But it’s now available everywhere in every grocery store. It’s now mainstream.

This is a quick recipe. The basis is another standard Chinese recipe in my kitchen, crab and corn soup. Unfortunately I had no corn. Dried shiitake, yes. Corn, no. Go figure. So that’s when the substitutions started.

This is very good. It would be a great soup course for a Chinese feast. You can get four decent bowls easily, or even 8 if you’re having a lot of dishes. For dinner this comfortably serves two.

But I’m a bit of a gourmand...

Crab & Mushroom Soup
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 5 min  |  Serves 2-4
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 cups water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp siriacha sauce (hot chilli sauce)
1 can (170 g) crab meat
3 green onions, sliced
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper, to taste

Place the dried shiitake mushrooms and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, reserving the water, and let cool for a minute or two before slicing. Set aside.

Chop the garlic and ginger and place into a soup pot. Add the shiitake, mushroom water, soy, sesame oil and siriacha. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2 minutes.

Then stir in the crab meat and green onions. Once the pot has come back to a simmer, slowly pour the beaten eggs into the hot soup, stirring constantly to break them uo into thin strands.

Taste for salt and pepper and adjust. Serve immediately.


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