As I have mentioned before, our grandson is a vegetarian. When I decided to make hot and sour soup for dinner while he was staying with us, I had to devise a recipe that would respect his diet preferences. Like most traditional hot and sour soups, our Hot and Sour Soup is made with chicken broth and pork. It’s not an authentic Chinese recipe, but it tastes darn good and is better than many versions that we have eaten in Chinese restaurants.
By substituting vegetable broth and soup base for chicken broth and bouillon and adding a little extra flavor via fresh ginger root, garlic and a serrano pepper, we ended up with a tasty soup for a vegetarian. I may be prejudiced, but I thought it was almost as good as our regular hot and sour soup.
Will ate a small serving without complaining, even though hot and sour soup is not one of his favorites. As a reward I let him choose the breakfast menu for the next day, and so we had Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes.
This is a recipe to have ready if there are any vegetarians in your family or circle of friends. The soup is low in calories and carbohydrates and if you are careful to use pure cornstarch and vegetable soup base, it will also be gluten free. What more could you ask for? Oh yes, I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating: IT TASTES GOOD.
1 tsp. minced ginger root
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 serrano pepper
1 4 oz. can sliced shiitake mushrooms
6 to 8 oz. extra or super firm tofu
1 8 oz. can sliced bamboo shoots
3 1/4 cups water, divided
3 tsp. vegetable soup base or bouillon cubes
Dash of black pepper
1 quart vegetable broth
2 T soy sauce
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. chili paste
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 T cornstarch
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 green onions
Start by preparing the ingredients. Peel and mince the ginger and garlic. Wearing gloves, wash and cut off the stem and slice the serrano pepper lengthwise into quarters. Remove and discard the seeds and white membrane and mince the pepper. Drain the mushrooms and bamboo shoots and cut the bamboo shoots into matchsticks. Cut the tofu into quarter inch strips about one and one-half inches long. Put all these ingredients into a bowl ready to be added to the soup at the right time.
Wash and cut off the root end from the onions, chop them into eighth-inch rounds and set them aside in a small bowl. You will add the chopped onion to the soup just before you serve it.
Dissolve the vegetable soup base or bouillon in three cups of hot water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the minced ginger, garlic, chopped pepper, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and tofu and simmer for five minutes. Add the vegetable broth, black pepper, soy sauce, white pepper, chili paste and vinegar. Raise the heat slightly and stir the soup as it returns to a simmer.
Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in a quarter cup of cold water and whisk it into the soup. Cook the soup for three minutes until it thickens slightly, then remove it from the heat.
Beat the egg in a cup or small bowl until it is lemon yellow, then slowly dribble it into the soup, stirring very gently with a chopstick or fork. Stir in the sesame oil and chopped onions. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may want to add a little more vinegar or chili paste.
Serve with bread and salad.
NOTES: You will find chili paste in the Asian or ethnic food section of any good supermarket. Chili paste is not chili sauce, which is a variety of ketchup. Chili paste is made of ground up chili peppers with extra heat added. It keeps years in the refrigerator, so a jar lasts a long time. WARNING: Do not try tasting a spoonful of chili paste. You will regret it.
You might want to start with just an eighth teaspoon of chili paste. You can always add more when you adjust the seasoning.
You can use dried shitake mushrooms if you like. Just follow directions for rehydrating them. In an emergency you can even use ordinary sliced button mushrooms, though they will give your soup a slightly different flavor. You may end up preferring them.