Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dorothy Huang: Suan La Tang (Hot and Sour Soup)

I was never a huge fan of the gloopy hot and sour soup you generally get from the Chinese take out places.  (And the neon yellow egg drop soup isn't any better.)  But when I lived in Austin during college, I had the chance to take a Chinese cooking class, and the dishes were so authentic, that I found I actually liked hot and sour soup.  Now, you need to visit a good Chinese grocery to get some of these ingredients, but trust me, it's worth it.

Suan La Tang (Hot and Sour Soup)
Adapted from Dorothy Huang

3 dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked in hot water until soft, sliced into strips
4 cups water
1½ teaspoons bonito flavored soup stock granules
½ can shredded bamboo shoots, rinsed well
3 tablespoons Szechuan mustard greens, rinsed well to remove salt (optional)
1 tablespoon cloud ear black fungus, soaked until soft and rinsed well
20 dried lily buds, soaked, stem removed, and tied into knots
½ pound fresh tofu (firm), cut into small cubes
1 egg, slightly beaten

2½ tablespoons tapioca starch
1½ tablespoons water
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Heat water until boiling. Add soup stock granules and stir well. Let boil for several minutes. Add mushrooms, bamboo shoots, mustard greens, black fungus, and lily buds. Let boil for two more minutes. Mix sauce ingredients into a paste, starting with tapioca starch and water. Add to boiling soup. Add tofu and egg, stirring quickly so egg dissipates into threads. Add additional soy sauce if needed. Serve hot.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, August 05, 2007

China, The Beautiful Cookbook: Shīzi Tóu (“Lion Heads” Stewed Large Meatballs)

This is the Chinese answer to those big 'ol meatballs you get at Italian restaurants that are as big as your fist.  Except I think the Chinese probably thought these up first.  And because they cook up low and slow, they're about as tender as silk.  You can cook them over low heat, or you can do what I did, and put them in the oven at 325°F.

Note: I didn't have any lard on me, so I decided that bacon fat is much more suitable than tasteless vegetable oil for frying the cabbage.

Shīzi Tóu (“Lion Heads” Stewed Large Meatballs)
Adapted from China, The Beautiful Cookbook by Kevin Sinclair

1¼ pounds lean ground pork
2½ tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 (1½-pound) Napa cabbage
½ (15-ounce) can straw mushrooms, rinsed (optional)
Lard or vegetable oil, for frying
1½ to 2 cups chicken stock

Mix together the pork, green onion, ginger, salt, and wine and work the meat with your fingers until smooth and sticky. Form into 4 large meatballs.

Wash the cabbage and cut lengthwise into quarters. Stir-fry the cabbage and mushrooms (if using) briefly in a wok in lard or vegetable oil, adding a generous pinch of salt.

Spread half of the cabbage across the bottom of a casserole and place the meatballs on top, then cover with the remaining cabbage.

Add enough boiling stock to just cover the meatballs. Cover the casserole tightly and simmer over low heat for about 1½ hours or until the meatballs are melt-in-the-mouth tender.

Serve in the casserole, pushing the vegetables to one side to expose the meatballs.

Makes 4 servings