Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Comfort Food: Hot-Sour Soup

This post is part of the Absolute Write blog chain #7.

In the last post in the chain, Bk30 wrote about chocolate, women, and sensual pleasure. It made me feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside just reading it.

Even though chocolate is full of fat and sugar, there is no denying that chocolate boosts your mood. It contains a complex mixture of psychoactive compounds, which, among other things, cause the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body's natural way of counteracting extreme stress or pain. Chocolate isn't the only to get the "feel good" juices flowing; you can get a similar high from vigorous exercise, a hearty belly laugh or by eating hot chilies.

The release of endorphins may explain why chocolate is such a great "comfort food". However, I have a number of non-sweet foods on my own list of favorite comfort foods. Some are definitely kid foods, like Mac and Cheese in all its bright orange glory. Others are a bit more grown-up. I thought I'd share the recipe for one of my favorites.

Hot-Sour Soup
This is based on a recipe in the Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook. The addition of hot (from ground white pepper), sour (from vinegar), and the earthy taste of mushrooms elevates the broth to a comfort level above even chicken soup. The ingredients are all sliced fine or slivered so it's easy to eat, and it's oh so tasty. I usually make a double batch of this recipe.

Step 1: Soak the Mushrooms

- Soak 3-4 dried black mushrooms in hot water. Let them soak 20-30 minutes, and save the soaking liquid.
- Cut off any tough stems, then sliver.

I've always purchased the dried black mushrooms from a Chinese grocery. They are usually 1-2 inches in diameter and have a crackled surface. I believe that they are simply dried shiitake mushrooms. I've substituted canned, sliced shiitake mushrooms (2 small cans/99 cents at the 99¢ Only Store), but they don't have as much flavor as dried.

Step 2: Prepare the Other Ingredients

- Sliver 1/4 lb. of lean pork
- Sliver 6 oz. of extra firm tofu (1/2 a standard package)
- Mince 1-2 scallions
- Lightly beat 1 egg (I don't see why you couldn't substitute 1 white or Egg Beaters)
- Open one small can of julienned bamboo shoots (I usually don't use a whole can, add to taste)
- Make a paste of 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water.

Step 3: Cook the Ingredients

- Mix chicken stock and the mushroom soaking liquid (total 6 cups, with at least 5 cups stock), and bring to a boil.
- Add the pork and mushrooms, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the tofu, cover and simmer for 3 minutes.

Step 4: Season the Broth
Stir the following ingredients into the broth:
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry or sake
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (you can substitute black pepper, but the taste isn't quite the same)

Taste the broth - you might have to adjust the amount of vinegar or pepper. I usually add a bit more pepper than the recipe calls for.

- Thicken with the corn starch paste.

Step 5: Add the Egg
Slowly add the beaten egg, let set for 20 or 30 seconds, then stir gently once or twice. Remove from heat. If you stir the egg too soon or too quickly it becomes blended with the broth rather than making discrete strings, if that's the word.
- sprinkle with the minced scallion

If you like, you can sprinkle with sesame oil or tobasco sauce, but I don't bother.

Eat and enjoy! As soon as we start getting real fall weather here I'm going to make some.

So, Kappa No He, what's your favorite comfort food?

The Posts in Blog Chain #7
I'll update the permalinks as people post.
Talia Mana @ Resources for Emotional Well-Being: When Good Writers Go Bad
Simran @ Everything Indian: To Write or Not to Write
Gillian @ Even in a Little Thing: The time has come at last, my friends . . .
BK30 @ Just a Small Town Girl: Oh sweet seductive chocolate...
The Road Less Traveled (here!)
MadderBlue @ Kappa No He: AW Chain Seven
Brian @ Atomic Bear Press: AW Blog Chain Seven
Alan Sorum @ A View From the Waterfront Wild Alaska Seafood
Matt @ Fireflies in the Cloud: My top 10 favorite TV shows of all time (AWchain #7)
Cath @ Curiouser and Curiouser: Coming Around Again or AW Blogchain
CesarCarlos @ Of Chapters and Reels: Of the Closeness of Friends Abroad
Laurie @ Peregrinas: Culture Shock
Kelly @ Organized Chaos: Deep Core Armageddon Day
Oswann @ BCOM... Absolute Consumer
Razib Ahmed @ Techtainment

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Blogger Kappa no He said...

Yummy post (and idea) for this chilly weather!

You know my dad can't eat anything Chinese/Japanese that has egg cooked like that. It is so funny, he is convinced it is still raw despite me showing him how cooked it is.

I'll get my post up sometime today.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting recipe, but as it requires time and effort but not chocolate I won't be making it any time soon. Happy to come visit and be the official taster!

p.s. thanks for the link to the study on chocolate. am adding that to my collection

9:04 PM  
Blogger Bk30 said...

okay, I'm hungry again. That recipe looks wonderful..

9:17 PM  
Blogger Harbormaster said...

I love hot and sour soup. I may have try this myself!

9:19 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

The trick is to slowly let a square of dark chocolate melt in your mouth as you are chopping, and the work goes by in a flash :)

9:23 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I don't think I have ever had your hot and sour soup before Peg. Of course I know how good your cooking is, so I can imagine it being fantastic. Makes me pine for the times we cooked dinner in El Certo.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Gillian said...

Alas, your dream soup has an ingredient that would make my mother sigh if I ate it. Istead of eating it for comfort I might have to run round the block six times and then sit down to some chilli-chocolate and a funny film.

1:22 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Gillian: the cookbook actually lists substitutes for essentially every ingredient in the recipe, except the tofu. You can use chicken instead of pork, lily buds for bamboo shoots, etc. I'm assuming that it's not bean curd that your mother would object to, right?

1:56 AM  
Anonymous Razib Ahmed said...

I am not a big fan of soup either. Well, the more I read AW Chain 7 entries, I understand that Bangladeshi food is really distinctive in nature.

6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny. I was just commenting on Kappa's blog about how I'm not that big of a fan of the 'shroom. But I love Chinese soup. Love it. Yum Yum.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Cath Smith said...

Oooh, I'm trying that soup recipe tommorrow.

Comfort food wise, I can't beat macaroni and cheese. There's just something so homely about it - like a great big hug. :)

12:22 PM  
Blogger -Kelly M. said...

I'm all about mashed potatoes as a comfort food. Great for a sore throat, and leftovers make yummy fried pancakes.

11:51 AM  

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