Sunday, 12 January 2014

Fat man, poor man hot and sour soup

Hot and Sour soup

January sees a flurry of new diet fads, resolutions and fitness promises. We all get overwhelmingly inspired to try that new juice diet till we pass out (or break by eating a whole block of cheese), torment ourselves by buying a clothes size too small in the sales as ‘thinspiration’ and sign up to the platinum-deluxe-premium-ICantAffordThis package you’ll kid yourself over for a few months. It’s expected that we all put a few pounds on over the holidays, but we forget that our wallets suffer too – and that everyone is doing dry January only as an excuse to be a little better to your wallet.
We’re coming round to ‘the most depressing day of the year’ apparently, and nothing beats a satisfying soup, especially a take on a classic hot and sour. My bank account rinsed and my stomach overhanging with mince pies, I wanted another healthy option (don’t worry…they won’t all be so saintly, Lolo’s Kitchen is currently harbouring a fair amount of cheese, potatoes and bacon that needs to be eaten). My fat man, poor man soup started off as an ode to a friend who has turned vegetarian for January. I love vegetarian food, and I’m lucky enough to live in a place where there are so many options available. However, I do get a slight panic of what to do if I have a vegetarian friend coming round to dinner. It’s not all about filling them with tofu, Chinese/Asian cuisine I think has a lot more to offer than that.

Chinese normally drink soup before a full meal to actually whet our appetite – anything to make us eat more and exploit our fast metabolisms sounds good to me. However, this soup is great as a light lunch as you can almost drink it by the gallons and not feel guilty. I recommend making your own stock, but it’s easier to skip this part and just use ready-made if you don’t have the time. 

Serves two generous bowlfuls

1 ½ white onions
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
2 cloves of garlic
10 Sichuan peppercorns, crushed (normally pepper is fine if you don’t have any)
1 tbs light soy sauce
1 tsp of tomato paste
2 litres of water

Soup ingredients
1 litre of vegetable stock
1 tsp chilli oil/handful of chilli flakes
1 crushed garlic clove
1 inch of grated ginger
3 water chestnuts, sliced
Handful of dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water (I used Porcini, but Chinese mushrooms or even button mushrooms work well)
2 tbs of rice vinegar
Coriander (optional)

Make the stock (optional): Roughly chop the onions, carrots and celery and fry on a high heat for 8-10 minutes until brown (these shouldn’t be sweated down). Add the remaining ingredients and finally water to the pan and let it simmer for 45 minutes or until reduced by roughly half. With a spoon, skim any foam off the top every now and then.
Make the soup: Add the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add in ­­­the chilli, garlic and ginger. Let this bubble away for 10 minutes and then add the rice vinegar. Start with small amounts and taste as you go, depending how sour you want the soup. Finish the soup with coriander (or chives if you’re an avid coriander hater)
Great on its own as a light lunch, or, in a more traditional sense, in smaller portions before a Chinese meal.

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