hot + sour soup

The first thing I turn to when faced with a head full of snot and misery is hot & sour soup. Does it work? I have no idea, but it makes me feel better. Tart and spicy comfort food. It occurred to me yesterday when I was feeling particularly rough that I haven't ordered Chinese since I moved last year, and I have no idea what the local restaurants produce. Even at $2/pint, I didn't want to chance it. So after a little bit of searching for "easy hot & sour soup" I found a recipe that seemed like I could pull it off after work.

After standing for thirty extra minutes in the ridiculously freezing cold waiting for the bus home, I spent a good twenty minutes talking to myself in the Asian foods aisle at the grocery store. There are so many choices! Chinese sesame oil? Korean sesame oil? Is this when Ina Garten chimes in and says, "just pick a GOOD one, darling". How do I know what's good, Ina?! I went for middle of the road price-wise across the board with the ingredients, and even bought my first bottle of sriracha! Organic tofu, organic scallions, a knob of ginger, button mushrooms, ground pork, and pre-minced garlic because I'm sick alright?! Give me a break.

After marching all the way home and dropping my bag of ingredients on the counter so I could blow my nose, I set to work making my magic soup elixir. This recipe is easy and fast, and while I made a few adjustments here and there, I really feel like this is good enough to be my go-to sick soup from now on. It makes a rich, spicy, delicious homemade broth when you feel like crap completely possible. Plus, it's FULL of the good stuff unlike that broth-heavy stuff you get from your local Chinese joint.

Hot & Sour Soup
Adapted from Food52/Joanne Chang's recipe from her book Flour, Too
Serves 4 to 6, or one whiny sick person with lots of leftovers

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced, plus more for garnish
8 ounces ground pork
4 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 pound soft or firm tofu (not silken and not extra firm), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 or 5 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cups rice vinegar, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2-3 teaspoons sesame oil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste
2 large eggs
White or black pepper for garnish

In the saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. You want to break up the pork into smaller pieces with a spoon, but don’t worry about breaking it down completely or cooking it through.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Taste the soup. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha sauce; if you want it more sour, add more vinegar.

Let this simmer on low for 10-20 minutes while you do your neti pot and put your pajamas on.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. With the soup at a steady simmer, slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Serve immediately, garnishing with whatever you want - sesame oil, black pepper, more Sriracha, scallions, etc.

Pour a hearty serving into your favorite bowl, snuggle into your bed, and watch a few episodes of Couples Therapy on VH1. You'll feel better in more ways than one.

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.