…At The Grindstones

{April 29, 2010}   Hot and Sour Comfort Food..

I have a tendency to get addicted to things very easily, and I crave them quite often. I go through periods of time where I crave and seek out one kind of food- often something that I’ve found completely disgusting in the past. For example, I used to absolutely hate tomatoes, and now I can just pop the little ones in my mouth and savor them like it’s chocolate. Over the last few years I’ve developed a need for Chinese Hot and Sour soup (thanks Dad! I used to watch him eat it when we went out and thought it was totally repulsive, and now I praise it for it’s mix of textures and flavors). Chinese food, to North Americans can be somewhat of a leap- “we” generally have this problem with food texture that we can’t get over- slippery, chewy, chicken-footy…

Actually I just read an amazing book about food in China called Sharks’ Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A ¬†Sweet-sour Memoir of Eating in China– which taught me a lot about what makes what a delicacy, and food trends in China right now, the resurfacing of street food and feasting… ¬†but I’ll save that for another entry..

The mix of textures and ingredients in this soup make it a joy to eat. It can’t be chomped down in one big bite, it doesn’t have one solid flavor, and you can see what you are eating. It’s got some zing to it though so if you can’t handle spicy, go easy on it. The good thing about this kind of spicy is water or tea takes it out of your mouth or throat. It doesn’t burn away your taste buds- it just kicks them a little and you can still enjoy the bouquet of flavors within.

Apparently this soup is thinner in Asia, and the thick jelly that holds it all together in North America is a recent twist on it from added cornstarch. It’s reddish-brownish colour is traditionally from heated porks blood, but I think a lot of it now comes from the chili paste in it, or the red chili oil that is often added on top before serving.

The ingredients are mainly, soft tofu, roast pork, bamboo shoots, black fungus..and often you’ll find egg (i’ve heard this varies between regions) and day lily buds, or enoki/button mushrooms, bean sprouts, grated carrots, and I’ve seen colored TVP instead of pork in the vegetarian versions. The flavoring comes from sesame oil, vinegar, chili paste, white pepper, dark soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar, ginger and more..sometimes some people use chicken soup stock as well.

Some soup from my favorite soups stop right now..

Here’s a video of some of the spices that go into Hot and Sour soup from ExpertVillage on Youtube:

And a little instruction on how to make it:

Of course this means that there is a video coming of me attempting to prepare this at home! I go out enough to get it, it’s about time I gave it a whirl myself.

Another afternoon’s soup:

Okay now I’m hungry.


et cetera