30-Minute Recipe: A Fresh Take on Hot and Sour Soup

The Four Percent


THE BRIGHT SIDE This lighter take on the classic hot and sour soup gets punch and nuance from two different varieties of vinegar.



Photo:

CHELSIE CRAIG FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FOOD STYLING BY PEARL JONES, PROP STYLING BY BETH PAKRADOONI

The Chef: Brandon Jew



Illustration:

Michael Hoeweler

His Restaurant: Mr. Jiu’s, Moongate Lounge and Mamahuhu in San Francisco

What He’s Known For: Combining the best that Bay Area farms have to offer with the culinary legacy of San Francisco’s Chinatown.

WITH THIS RECIPE, chef Brandon Jew puts his spin on a Chinese American classic. This version skips the cornstarch that typically gives hot and sour soup a somewhat viscous consistency. The result is surprisingly delicate but also comfortingly familiar. “This isn’t traditional,” Mr. Jew said. “But it honors traditional flavors.”

The more flavorful the stock you start with, of course, the better the soup. Celery, fennel, leeks and ginger infuse the broth as it simmers, and Mr. Jew calls for seasoning assertively at the very end of cooking with white pepper, distilled white vinegar and Chinese black vinegar. “The hot comes from the pepper,” he said. “The sour comes from the vinegars.”

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Taste and tweak to get it right. “The hot plays off the sour a little different with every batch,” Mr. Jew said. “You have to adjust both to build a balance in tandem. When you add more sour, you’ll need more pepper.” During crab season in the Bay Area, he adds a little fresh crab—delicious, but hardly mandatory. Spooned over cubes of tofu and seared mushrooms, finished with a scattering of sliced scallions, the soup is bracing, satisfying and fresh.

CHELSIE CRAIG FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FOOD STYLING BY PEARL JONES, PROP STYLING BY BETH PAKRADOONI

Ingredients

  • 8 cups mushroom, vegetable or fish stock
  • 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • ½ head fennel, roughly chopped
  • 1 large leek, halved lengthwise
  • 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground white pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
  • 2 cups mushrooms, such as a mix of shiitake and fresh wood ear
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 ounces firm tofu, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • ½ cup cooked, shredded crab meat (optional)
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons sliced scallions, to garnish

Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine stock, celery, fennel, leeks, ginger, white pepper, sesame oil and soy sauce. Simmer until aromatics infuse broth, 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, set a wok or a large frying pan over medium heat. Add grapeseed oil and celery seeds. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until mushrooms are tender and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Strain broth and return to pot, discarding aromatics. Add white and black vinegars to broth. Taste and add more vinegar, white pepper and/or soy sauce as needed. Divide mushrooms, tofu and crab, if using, among 4 bowls, and ladle hot broth over each serving. Garnish with scallions.

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