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Eric Akis: Hot and sour soup will lift your spirits

With cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and tofu, this soup provides a health mix of vitamins and protein — along with a palate-awakening experience.
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Hot and sour soup with vegetables, mushrooms and tofu includes chili sauce and two types of vinegar to awaken your palate. ERIC AKIS

If you need an aromatic bowl of some thing that will lift your spirits, awaken your palate and provide sustenance, try my recipe for hot and sour soup with vegetables, mushrooms and tofu.

The aromatic and palate-awakening parts of the recipe come from combining vegetable (or chicken) stock with chili sauce, two types of vinegar, including balsamic — which gives the soup a rich hue — pepper, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and a bit of brown sugar. Simmered together, they create a heavenly scented, umami-rich base for the soup.

Simmered in that base are cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and tofu, providing a range of minerals, fibre, vitamins and protein.

Beaten egg, which contains every vitamin except C, is often swirled into hot and sour soup just before it’s served, and my recipe gives you the option to do that.

The soup cooks up fairly quickly, so be sure you have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before firing up the stove. Any leftover soup will freeze well.

Hot and Sour Soup with Vegetables, Mushrooms and Tofu

Hearty, flavourful, aromatic and filling soup stocked with vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and cubes of protein-rich tofu.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: about 12 minutes

Makes: three to four servings

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

3 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice vinegar or cider vinegar

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp sriracha or other smooth Asian-style chili sauce, or to taste

2 tsp brown sugar

• pinch ground white pepper

1 1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced, then cut into thin strips

1 large garlic clove, minced

5 medium fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps thinly sliced

1 (200 mL) can bamboo shoots, drained and sliced lengthwise

1 small carrot, cut into thin, 1-inch-long strips

1 cup very thinly shredded green cabbage

1 (350 gram) pkg. extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes

2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tbsp water

1 tsp sesame oil

1 large egg, beaten (optional)

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Combine stock, soy sauce, vinegars, sriracha, sugar, white pepper, ginger and garlic in a medium pot set over medium-high heat (my pot was eight inches wide and four inches tall). Add the mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrot and cabbage and bring soup to a gentle simmer, lowering the heat as needed, to maintain that gentle simmer.

Simmer the soup five minutes, or until mushrooms and vegetables are just tender. Add the tofu, then stir in the cornstarch/water mixture and sesame oil. Simmer soup until lightly thickened, about two minutes.

If adding egg to the soup, slowly pour the beaten egg into the soup, gently stirring in a circular motion to create thin strands of cooked egg in it. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with green onions and serve.

Eric’s options: A generous amount of tofu is added to the soup. But you could use less, if that’s what you prefer. Other types of tofu, such as medium-firm or firm, will also work in this recipe.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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