I went for a walk the other morning, and halfway through, the wind kicked up and rain starting pouring down. By the time I got home, I was soaked and chilled. I should have planned better and worn a raincoat. But after drying off, I was glad that the next thing I had planned to do that day was to make hot and sour soup.
It’s heavenly aromatic, spicy and tangy, stocked with ginger and garlic and rich with other palate-awakening ingredients. In other words, it’s the perfect concoction to enjoy on a blustery West Coast winter day.
I wanted my hot and sour soup to be filling enough to serve as dinner, so I made it fairly thick, with ingredients such as vegetables and tofu. For more protein and sustenance, I added prawns to my soup and used their shells to flavour its broth.
I like to serve some form of bread with most soups, and in this case, I opted for wedges of green onion pancake, which is sort of like a savoury flatbread. In Chinese restaurants, a green onion pancake is often served as an appetizer, but it can also accompany other dishes.
I’d never made them before and soon realized they were a bit more complicated than I expected. The pancakes were quite tasty, so it was worth the effort. But if you decide to make them, keep in mind that there are quite a few steps involved.
Hot and Sour Prawn Soup
This version of hot and sour soup is perfect for a rainy winter day. Any leftover soup could be frozen.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: About 35 minutes
Makes: Four servings
16 medium or large shell-on wild prawns
5 cups chicken, fish or vegetable stock, plus more if needed
1 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp hot Asian-style chili sauce, such as Sriracha, or to taste
2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup grated carrot
8 small to medium fresh shitake mushrooms, tough stems removed, caps sliced
1 (8 oz./227 gram) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained well and cut into thin strips
150 to 175 grams extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch wide, 1 1/2-inch long strips
2 Tbsp corn starch mixed with 3 Tbsp cold water
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 medium baby bok choy, stems trimmed, separated into single stem pieces, and then thickly sliced
• sliced fresh red chilies, to taste (optional)
• fresh cilantro leaves, to taste (optional)
To peel and devein each prawn, hold the tip of the tail in one hand. Slip the thumb of your other hand under the shell between its legs. Pull off the shell and, if desired, leave the very tip of the tail in place.
With a small paring knife, make a lengthwise slit along the back of the prawn. Now pull out, or rinse out with cold water, the dark vein. Pat each prawn dry, set on a plate and refrigerate until needed.
Place the prawn shells, 5 cups stock and 1 cup water in a medium pot set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat until the liquid gently simmers (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Simmer prawn shells 20 minutes, then strain stock into a clean medium pot.
Return stock to a simmer, then add the prawns to the pot. Simmer prawns two to three minutes, until just cooked through. Lift prawns out of the pot with a slotted spoon and set them on a clean plate.
Add the vinegar, soy sauce, chili sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, carrot, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and tofu to the stock and return to a gentle simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer one minute more.
Add the cooked prawns, bok choy and green onions to the soup and heat through two minutes. Add a bit more stock to the soup if you find it too thick. Garnish the top of the soup, if desired, with a few sliced fresh red chilies and cilantro leaves.
Green Onion Pancakes
Serve these pleasingly chewy, green-onion-flecked pancakes with the hot and sour soup.
Preparation time: 45 minutes, plus resting time
Cooking time: Four to six minutes
Makes: Six pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus some for kneading
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp boiling water
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil, plus some for frying
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion (green tops only)
4 tsp sesame oil
Place flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the boiling water and 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil and mix until sticky loose dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and your hands. Turn the dough onto that surface. Knead the dough five minutes (see Note).
Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes.
Lightly flour your work surface again. Roll the dough into a cylinder that’s about eight-inches long. Cut the cylinder, widthwise, into six roughly equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 4 1/2- to 5-inch circle.
Brush the top of each dough circle with 3/4 tsp sesame oil, then sprinkle with green onion. Roll up each piece of dough like you would a jellyroll, then pinch the ends to seal.
Gently press down on each rolled-up piece of dough. Now roll each piece of dough up into a snail shape. Cover the snail-shaped pieces of dough and let rest 10 minutes.
Lightly flour your work surface again. Sit the snail-shaped piece of dough flat on that surface. Press down on each one with the palm of your hand to create a thick disc. Now roll each disc into a 4 1/2 to 5-inch circle.
Heat a non-stick griddle or large non-stick skillet over medium- to medium-high heat. Brush the cooking surface with vegetable oil.
Cook the pancakes, in batches if necessary, two to three minutes per side, or until cooked and light golden. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.
Note: The dough, after kneading, should have a tiny bit of stickiness to it, as you’ll be adding flour when rolling and shaping it into pancakes. If it’s overly wet, simply add a bit of flour during the kneading process.
Eric’s options: You can make these pancakes a few hours before needed. Let them cool, then wrap in aluminum foil until ready to serve. Warm up the pancakes by setting the aluminum foil-wrapped pack of them in a 350 F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.