Monday, March 4, 2013

Suan La Tang


Suan La Tang (literally, "sour hot soup," but known in the West as Hot and Sour Soup)


A riot of flavor and texture, this is the soup your grandmother might make, if your grandmother was Chinese and lived in Northwestern China--the eastern equivalent to "vegetable soup."  And so, you will find a great deal of variation in the ingredients for this healthful dish.  Some published recipes will include such additions as duck blood and sea cucumber.  But, like General Tso's Chicken, which began in Asia as a very different animal, this dish has adapted to Western tastes, and has now evolved it's own traditional preparation in Western Chinese restaurants, especially those billing themselves as regional or Sichuan restaurants.

But even if one ignores the foregoing the sea cucumber and duck blood, Suan La Tang still has ingredients that are unfamiliar to most western cooks: "Cloud Ear Fungus" (云耳; yún'ěr,) and "Golden Needles." huang hua cai 黃花菜.  These inclusions have as much to do with texture as flavor, as you will see, but along with bamboo shoots and Chinese dried mushroom, they are essential to the character of Suan La Tang.

Finally, this recipe is not for the faint of heart.  Hot and Sour Soup is not technically difficult to make, but to be honest, it is time consuming.  Each of the eight main ingredients need at least two stages of prep; soaking, marinating, then carefully slicing and shredding.  But, as with most things in life, the difficulty pays off, and the results are far superior to anything you're likely to find in Western Chinese restuarants.

Prepare the following:

4 Chinese dried mushrooms-- soak in 180° hot water for 40 min; wring out moisture when cool, then julienne.
1/4 oz Cloud ears-- soak in 180° hot water for 40 min; wring out moisture when cool, then julienne.
3/4 oz golden needles, soak in 180° hot water for 40 min; wring out moisture when cool, then cut large pcs in half
1 - 2 oz bamboo shoots, blanched, drained and slivered

MARINATE the above in
1 TAB sweet black vinegar
1 TAB wine
1 TAB soy

2 scallions, diagonally sliced
1-2 tsp chopped dried chili or chili flake if desired
6 oz Pork, Partially frozen to stiffen then julienned; marinate in 1 TAB Light Soy, 1 Tab rice wine or sherry
8 oz firm fresh Doufu; Rinsed, matchstick

In a large sauce pan COMBINE stock:

3 cans low sodium chicken stock  (1 1/2 quarts--Homemade is best)
1 Heap TAB chx boullion paste or powder
12 oz water

In a bowl, COMBINE:

4 TAB rice vinegar
1 Heap tsp Sugar
1 TAB light Soy
1 TAB Black Soy
1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
1 tsp fine white pepper

In a bowl, COMBINE with whisk:

2 eggs + 2 tsp oil + pinch of salt

COMBINE:

4- 5 TAB potato starch with 4 TAB water for slurry

SET ASIDE:

1 cup cilantro leaves, no stems

GARNISH:

A few cilantro leaves
Sesame oil

Once the preparation of the ingredients is complete, assemble the soup in the following order:   Bring the stock to a simmer with the Chinese mushrooms, Cloud ears, golden needles, and bamboo shoots;  Lower heat to barely a simmer; Add julienned PORK;  Add DOU FU; When the stock begins to simmer again, add potato starch slurry slowly until it thickens per your preference; pour in beaten EGG in a thin stream and do not stir for a half minute or so to set egg; add CILANTRO, then VINEGAR mixture and stir only enough to distribute ingredients.  Remove to a serving bowl.  Garnish w/ Sesame oil, few pieces of cilantro and chili



13 comments:

  1. hi! ive bookmark your page, and i'm excited to try your recipes and techniques. I'm commenting in hopes that maybe you can help me, i'd love to find a great egg-drop soup? though, i must apologize in advance if i haven't looked deep enough in your blog. if you can help me? maybe a recipe or some tips? please and thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't done a recipe for dàn huā tāng (egg flower soup) It's one of those dishes that many people assume is only found in the old Chinese American restaurants, but it is a very traditional southern Chinese recipe, though in the states, they too often over thicken it. Here's a decent recipe from an excellent blog to get you started: http://rasamalaysia.com/chinese-egg-drop-soup/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello, I love your blog and have tried several recipes now, including yuciang qiezi, gongbao jiding as weel as a few others foods I've missed since I've moved back to the States. I was wonderig if you had any plans to post shuizhuroupian/ shuizhuyu recipes? I can't seem to get them right.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You are obviously a devoted foodie! As you can tell by the dates on my posts, I've neglected this blog for a while. I'm spending more time on art these days (http://johnsinclairsart.blogspot.com/). As for Shui Zhu Rou Pian, I highly recommend Fuchsia Dunlop's book, Land of Plenty. She's fluent in Chinese, enrolled in a culinary academy in Chengdu, Sichuan, and really knows her stuff. You will find her version of the dish under "Shui Zhu Niu Rou."

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  5. The cookbook you recommended came in the other day and I tried out the 水煮牛肉. It was perfect. Thanks again!

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  9. I remember that I used to eat hot and sour soup when I was in China during the winter. It was really nice and comforting to eat when it's cold outside, so it's great to have this recipes. I've never really known what was in it, except for the mushrooms and a few of the spices, so it's interesting that there are a few ingredients that I'm unfamiliar with. I didn't know that this recipe calls for cloud ears and golden needles. Hopefully, I'll be able to find them if I decide to make this recipe.
    http://www.sunwah.com.au

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  10. I remember that I used to eat hot and sour soup when I was in China during the winter. It was really nice and comforting to eat when it's cold outside, so it's great to have this recipes. I've never really known what was in it, except for the mushrooms and a few of the spices, so it's interesting that there are a few ingredients that I'm unfamiliar with. I didn't know that this recipe calls for cloud ears and golden needles. Hopefully, I'll be able to find them if I decide to make this recipe.
    http://www.sunwah.com.au

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