Forget Joyce’s Ulysses. More often than not, I find myself wishing for annotations on recipes I read. The offenders can be found everywhere: in cookbooks, online, in magazines…other blogs. I can’t be the only one who reads food preparation instructions with a raised eyebrow. Caramelize an onion in 15 minutes? I beg to differ.
As thrilled as I was to find a hot and sour soup recipe in a recent issue of the magazine Saveur, I was skeptical about the time it took, not to mention a seemingly out of nowhere addition of pork tenderloin. I’m a huge fan of this fiery soup and was excited to try out the recipe — with reservations.
And now, ladies and gentleman, I bring you Suan La Tang, Hot and Sour Soup, with my annotations in italics.
Suan La Tang –Hot and Sour Soup, Saveur #150 (November 2012)
For the pork:
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. brandy
1 tsp. cornstarch
4 oz. pork tenderloin, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
[The addition of this animal seems completely unnecessary and without merit. I will ignore this direction and continue on with the rest of recipe.]
For the soup:
8 cups chicken stock
[Really, does it have to be chicken stock? Maybe we can just call it stock and keep it vegetarian?]
3 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp. ground white pepper
[Um. White pepper? Is that really necessary? After checking a bunch of hot and sour soups online, it looks like an essential ingredient to the soup. Luckily, spices were 50% off at Star Market this afternoon. I will now have to find a dozen more recipes that call for white pepper, or, make this soup over and over and over.]
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. cayenne
12 oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/4” cubes
[But tofu usually comes in 14 oz. packages. I’m not going to use all but 2 oz. of tofu. That just seems ridiculous.]
¼ cup cubed potato
[I peeled and cubed the potato while I waited for the broth to thicken. There was a lot of waiting.]
6 shiitake or wood ear mushrooms, cut into 1/4 “ pieces.
[I wonder what people who don’t frequent Ocean State Job Lot do when recipes call for a random amount of shiitake mushrooms. Even though the directions didn’t call for it, before I tackled any of the recipe, I set the mushrooms in a bowl of near-boiling water and lidded the bowl with an overturned plate. The mushrooms soaked until it was time to add them to the pot. This made them much easier to cut.]
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro, to garnish
[Eh, I’m not going to bother with the cilantro tonight.]
For the pork:
[See above. I’m just going to completely ignore this part of the recipe and hope for the best.]
For the soup:
Whisk together stock, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, pepper, salt, cayenne and ¼ cup water in a 4-qt. saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
[I don’t own a 4-qt. saucepan, so I’m going to use the huge pot I use for making pasta. Do people typically own 4-qt. saucepans? About the boiling: It seems to take a good 14-17 minutes to bring 8 cups of stock to a boil, just an FYI.]
Add pork, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens, about 30 minutes. Add tofu, potatoes, and mushrooms, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
[As it turns out, the thickening took more like 50 minutes, rather than 30 minutes. The potatoes getting tender took closer to 25 minutes, rather than 15 minutes.]
Without stirring, slowly drizzle egg into simmering soup in a thin, steady stream. When egg strands float to surface, stir in the oil. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with cilantro. Serves 4-6.
[Wow, the drizzled raw egg morphing into floating streams was almost instantaneous. So cool. I want to do it again.]
The verdict: This soup was excellent and worth sharing. With annotations. I started it at 5:30 and it was a little after 7 before we sat down to eat. Will definitely make it again, but will keep in mind for the next time that this soup takes about an hour and a half to prepare.