For a New York home cook, it’s a crime not to make Chinese food, what with all of the Asian ingredients readily available in the city. On a recent trip to Sunset Park’s East Harbor Seafood Palace, we stopped at a nearby grocery and purchased an assortment of Chinese mushrooms and dried lily flowers, the quintessential ingredient in hot & sour soup. Lily flowers, which you may have come across in moo shoo dishes, have the shape and texture of a straw and has an earthy aroma and taste, greatly complimenting the mushrooms. Of course, if you can’t get ahold of them yourself, feel free to skip.
For a mushroom variation, we turned to our trusted cookbook Every Grain of Rice by the estimable Fushia Dunlop for this recipe. The recipe combines at least three types of mushrooms, plus dried shiitakes and the aforementioned lilly flowers to create a sour, hot, and deeply mushroomy broth that is perfect comfort food for these last cold days of winter.
The dish can be served as either an appetizer to a Chinese feast (may we recommend Sichuan Kung Pao Chicken for the second course), or as the main course in itself. It’s completely vegetarian if you use vegetable stock, but is heartier with a good homemade chicken stock. Unlike traditional hot & sour soups, this soup isn’t spicy, but does pack a kick from the white pepper and is sour from the chinkiang vinegar, my new favorite vinegar. For an even hearty choice, add sliced leftover chicken in addition to tofu.
The dish is actually fairly easy to make. It does not require long simmering. And you can do most of your prep while the dried shiitakes and lily flowers (if using) are rehydrating.
And hey, here’s another added benefit — you can finally break out that deep pot or tureen you got as a wedding gift and never opened to serve.
Sour & Hot Mushroom Soup
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 small handful of dried lily flowers (optional, but great if you have them)
- 1 qt stock of your choice chicken or vegetable stock are best here
- 3 oz fresh shiitakes
- 2 oz enoki mushrooms
- 8 oz tofu
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 1/2 tsbp chinkiang vinegar
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp finely sliced spring onion greens
- leftover chicken (optional)
Rehydrate the dried shiitakes and lily flowers
Soak the dried shiitake and lily flowers (if using) by in hot water for an hour (or more)
Prep the mushrooms and heat the stock
Set the stock in a pan to heat up.
Cut the ginger into fine slivers. Trim off and discard the stalks of the soaked mushrooms and thinly slice the caps. To the same for the fresh shiitakes, cutting the caps into wide strips.
Cut the oyster mushrooms lengthwise into similar thin strips.
Gently pull apart the clumped enoki mushrooms.
Cut the tofu and/or chicken (if using) into strips a similar size to the mushrooms.
Make the soup
Heat oil in a woke over high flame. Add the ginger and sizzle for a few seconds until fragrant. Then add the mushrooms and lily flowers and stir fry until the mushrooms are half-cooked and begin to color (a few minutes).
Pour in the heated stock and bring to a boil.
Add the tofu and chicken (if using) and stir gently.
Season the soup with the soy sauces and salt to taste (it should be fairly salty).
Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the vinegar and pepper and simmer for around 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.
To serve: Carefully ladle or pour the soup from the wok into a deep pot or tureen. Scatter the spring onions over the soup and serve.