One of my favorite soups is Hot & Sour Soup, and I was flabbergasted to discover that it's really quite easy - and cheap! - to make. Who woulda thunk it? Called suan la t'ang in Chinese, it gets its tang from the addition of white vinegar. Click through for the recipe.
Hot & Sour Soup
Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients: 6 dried shiitake mushrooms 1 package of firm tofu 1/2 cup canned bamboo shoots 1/4 lb. boneless pork 1 quart chicken stock, fresh or canned 1 tsp. salt 1 tbsp soy sauce 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper 3 tbsp white vinegar 3 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 4 TBSP. cold water 1 egg, lightly beaten Sesame seed oil 1 scallion, finely chopped
Preparation: Place the mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Meanwhile, add the chicken stock, salt, and soy sauce to a soup pot and bring to a boil. While waiting for the liquid to heat up, slice the bamboo in thin matchsticks and trim the fat off the pork and cut it in strips 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch thick. Remove the mushrooms from the hot water; put the mushroom water in the soup pot. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Add the bamboo, mushrooms, and pork to the now-boiling soup. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes.
Use about half the block of tofu - you want about 3/4 cup of tofu sliced in matchsticks. Add the tofu, pepper, and vinegar to the pot. Bring to a boil again. Add the cornstarch mixed with water to the pot, and stir until the mixture is thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the egg, stirring gently.
Ladle the hot soup in bowls and garnish with a teaspoon of sesame oil and some chopped scallions.
Adjustments: This could easily be made vegetarian or vegan by substituting dashi or vegetable broth for the chicken stock and omitting the pork and/or the egg.
If you want more sourness, try another tablespoon of vinegar.
If you want it even thicker, try another tablespoon of corn starch mixed with water.