So we have a new goal around here. To be completely honest with you we have a lot of new goals, such as returning e-mails more promptly and having a pet lion, BUT we are especially excited about this new one as it centers on food. After all, one of our favorite forms of exercise is bicep curls, provided a glass of wine is in one hand and a piece of chocolate in the other.
What is this new food-inspired goal?To collect a local recipe (or two or twenty) from every country we visit—preferably via a private cooking class—and then share the recipe with you.
Whether you’re looking for a way to spice up your weekly dinner menu or just learn a bit about food cultures around the world, this segment is for you. We even dubbed an awesome name for it: The Global Kitchen.
First up in the series is one of my favorite Taiwanese dishes: Suan La Tang (酸辣湯) or Sour and Spicy Soup.
This soup is thick and filling. It’s got a whole medley of fresh and colorful ingredients. There’s even a bit of duck blood in it just to keep you on your toes. Sour and Spicy Soup is also extremely common in Taiwan, available at nearly every local dumpling and soup shop.
In Taiwanese cuisine, texture is often just as important as flavor, and Sour and Spicy Soup is no exception. Vinegar and white pepper play off each other to create a perfectly balanced sour and spicy base while tofu, mushrooms, carrots, and eggs bulk things up a bit. Tasteless duck (or pig) blood jelly gives it a slightly chewy texture-a key feature.
This is my dear friend Grace taking time out of her busy schedule to serve as head chef in the Sour and Spicy Soup how-to. The delicious recipe and notes are compliments of her authentic and scrumptious cooking knowledge. I’ll let you know ahead of time that all measurements are an approximation as Grace cooks by eyeballing it and I was too busy ‘helping’ to take notes.
You might have a bit of trouble finding some of the ingredients, particularly the jellied blood and cloud ear mushrooms. Don’t let that discourage you from giving the recipe a try with your own substitutions—you’ll still get the iconic sour and spicy taste!
Suan La Tang 酸辣湯 (Sour and Spicy Soup)
Yield – 4 servings Total Time – 30 minutes-ish
4 slices cloud ear mushrooms (black fungus)
2 ounces duck blood jelly, thinly sliced
2 ounces plate tofu, thinly sliced or diced
½ carrot, grated
3 tablespoons potato starch
3.5 cups broth (or water) + ½ cup water for flour mixture
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons white pepper
2 tablespoons soy sauce (marinade)+ 1 tablespoon (for base)
3-4 tablespoons white vinegar
5 ounces pork, shredded
2 stalks green onion, diced (optional)
Briefly marinade the shredded pork in the sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs with a dash of water. Set aside.
Mix potato starch with ½ cup of water.
Heat a dash of oil over high heat in a large pot. Add the grated carrot and stir slightly. After about a minute, add the cloud ear mushrooms. Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes until the carrots are soft and sweet smelling.
Add just enough water (or broth) to cover the carrots and mushrooms. Bring to a boil. Add the rest of the water (or broth). Then toss in duck blood.
Add white pepper, slightly adjusting for your preferred spiciness. Add salt.
Bring the soup to a boil again. Add flour/water mixture to make soup thicker and a bit sticky. Reduce heat to medium.
Add tofu. (The stickiness of the broth protects the tofu from falling apart.)
Drizzle whisked eggs on top. If you are a pro like Grace, use chopsticks to assist in the drizzling process. Ideally, the eggs should settle on top of the soup rather than sink to the bottom.
Turn off the heat. Add marinated meat.
Add vinegar, slightly adjusting amount for preferred sourness level. Optionally add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce (without salt) for color.
Voila! Serve Sour and Spicy Soup. Optionally garnish with diced green onion. [/color-box]
So what do you think of the Global Kitchen’s first segment? Up to the challenge of trying some Sour and Spicy Soup this week? As always, please leave any questions, comments, or feedback in the comments below!