Change-up

Just to remind you that it’s only haute cuisine a few times a year at the Nomnivores’ house, here’s tonight’s dinner. It’s -15’C outside, but we’re still feeling louche and gluttonous, post-holiday feast. Time for something paradoxical: light but filling, warm but bright, smooth but spiky.

Hot and sour soup fits that bill. It also has the advantages of being healthy, cheap, easy, and – as Nigel Slater might say – “delightfully moreish.” In other words: you always want just one more spoonful.

Uncharacteristically, Epicurious (channeling the dearly-departed but undead Gourmet) comes to the rescue with the best recipe we’ve found for this often-abused classic. We present tonight’s version, with our own ingredient adaptations. For the cooking instructions, refer to the recipe.

5 ounces boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips (2/3 cup) Tonight, that was 3 tiny, organic pork loin chops
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
4 small Chinese dried black mushrooms We had dried shiitakes on hand
12 small dried tree ear mushrooms We had this in the form of “dried black fungus” – well worth the trip to Chinatown for a $1.99 bag that’ll last you a year – this is essential to achieve that slippery crunchiness you find in all good hot and sour soups
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar Chinese black vinegar is better, if you have it
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil Or grapeseed, or canola
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth We used half leftover roasted pork-rib stock, and half, frozen, organic chicken stock – it ended up being almost too rich
3 to 4 oz firm tofu (about a quarter of a block), rinsed and drained, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper The single most important flavouring
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens We had chives in the fridge, so in they went
2 tablespoons fresh whole cilantro leaves

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