I’ve never actually had hot and sour soup before, so I’m not sure what it’s supposed to taste like. But Derek has fond memories of it, so I thought I’d give this recipe from the AMA cookbook a try.
The recipe is pretty simple. Boil a cup of white rice (I used a Korean short-grain rice) in 6 cups of broth and 3 cups of water. After five minutes add 8 ounces of sliced green cabbage, then cook another 10 minutes. Mix in 1 pound firm tofu (cut into 1/2-inch cubes), 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger, 1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil, 1 Tbs. rice wine vinegar, and 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions. Cook another five minutes, or until the rice is tender. Garnish the soup with more fresh scallions.
I didn’t think five minutes would be enough time for the ginger to flavor the broth, so I added the ginger at the very beginning.
I was expecting something spicy and acidic, but the soup was neither spicy nor acidic. I added another tablespoon of vinegar, but it still tasted pretty boring to me. Derek added soy sauce and lots of chili sauce, and then said it wasn’t bad. But I thought it was too much white rice, way too few vegetables, and the tofu didn’t really have any flavor, and the broth was pretty bland.
Derek says that it tasted nothing like hot and sour soup. He said that the hot and sour soup he grew up eating typically had lots of cornstarch, long strips of cabbage, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, vinegar, tofu (or tofu skin), eggs, but definitely no rice.
Derek and I ate several small bowls each for breakfast, but I was still left with over a quart of soup. After a night in the fridge the korean rice had absorbed most of the broth and it had become kind of a thick, gelatinous lump of goopy rice, with pieces of putrid green scallions floating around. I didn’t want to toss it but it was extremely unappetizing looking. So I used some more vegetable broth to boil some winter squash until soft, then I added more cabbage, some sliced escarole, a few spoonfuls of sugar and sambal olek, and the leftover soup. I simmered it a while longer to mix the flavors, then stirred in a few cups of bean sprouts and three large scallions (sliced).
The soup was much improved. The squash completely fell apart and turned the broth a lovely shade of orange. The rice had also disintegrated somewhat, making the soup vaguely reminiscent of congee or a Korean rice porridge. All the extra veggies gave the stew much more textural contrast. We ate the soup with Korean red chili paste, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I wouldn’t make the hot and sour soup recipe again, but I might try making a slightly more Korean-style rice porridge stew. Derek thought it was definitely better than the original, but still a bit confused tasting. Derek’s mother liked it quite a bit more than he did. She liked all the different textures.
Rating: C (original recipe), B (modified recipe)
Derek: C+ (original recipe), B- (modified recipe)