Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Vegetarian hot & sour soup from scratch, made with 3 wild mushrooms and burdock. Gluten free, high protein, low sugar, low carb

Today's recipe is amazing. It's super healthy, tastes great, and is jam-packed with vitamin, iron and mineral-rich wild mushrooms. It's a better-for-you, scratch-made, vegetarian version of classic take-out Chinese: hot and sour soup. It's low in fat, low in carbs, high in protein, and gluten-free.

It's also much more time consuming than anything I usually make, clocking in at about an hour and 45 minutes (but it makes a TON and it's totally worth it), and you're probably going to need to hit up an Asian market for all the ingredients.

But if I haven't scared you off yet, let me just say again: totally worth it.

With three kinds of wild mushrooms it's got a ton of umami flavor, you won't miss the meat! It's spicy and sour and thick and richly textured. While we usually think of hot and sour as an appetizer, this is totally a complete and filling meal.

Wood ear mushrooms are a superfood, cholesterol-lowering, hypoglycemic, and tumor-reducing!
I've used 3 kinds of foraged mushrooms here, but you can also use store-bought. Just make sure to pick a good texture mix. So you need 1 kind of meaty mushroom (oysters, shiitake, or hen of the wood), and 1 kind of soft mushroom (I used honey mushrooms*, but you could use beech or enoki as well), and wood ear mushrooms. You absolutely have to have wood ears, they are the traditional black fungus that gives hot and sour soup it's unique texture. They can be purchased, dried, in Asian markets.

As for the burdock, you can find it in Asian markets as well, and sometimes places like Whole Foods. It might be called "Gobo" which is it's Japanese name. If you can't find it, you can also use lotus root and bamboo shoots, fresh or canned.

Burdock rosettes, at the perfect stage to dig up the roots.
Burdock is another superfood, incredibly healing to the kidneys and liver

Scratch-made vegetarian hot & sour soup recipe

Makes 4 quarts of soup!

8 cups high quality vegetable stock
3 cups burdock, peeled and cut to matchsticks
2 cups dried wood ear mushrooms
2 cups fresh meaty mushrooms, like oysters or shiitake, cut to bite size
2 cups soft mushrooms, like honey* or beech, cut to bite size
1 12-14oz block of extra-firm tofu
3 large eggs
3-4 dried chilies
4-6 tbs. black vinegar (white or rice vinegars will not taste as good!)
3-4 tps. soy sauce
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. sesame oil
White pepper
Asian 5 spice powder
Chili garlic sauce, sriracha or sambal oelek
Olive oil
Sliced scallion or ramp leaves to garnish, optional

1. Start by reconstituting your wood ear mushrooms, they will need 45minutes to an hour. Put them in enough warm (not hot) water to cover, and set aside. If any of your other mushrooms are dried, you will need to reconstitute them as well. While the mushrooms are reconstituting, you can peel and cut your burdock, and then pre-boil it for about 30 minutes, until semi-tender, it will finish cooking in the soup.

2. While the burdock is boiling, drain and press your tofu. Drain the liquid, and slice the block into sheets, about 1/3 of an inch thick. Lay them on paper towels, and cover with more paper towels. Weigh them down to press, and set aside.

3. In a large soup pot or wok, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Break up your dried chilies, discarding the seeds, if you want (I left mine in), and add to the oil. Sauté for a minute, then add the grated ginger, and sauté for 2 minutes more.

4. Add your pre-cooked burdock and sprinkle generously with white pepper. Toss in the oil and spices and fry for about 5 minutes, then pour in your stock. Bring to a rolling boil and add in your meaty mushrooms. Drain your wood ear, slice into thin strips,  and trim off any hard parts. Then add them in as well. Finally, add your soft mushrooms. Simmer for 10 minutes

5. Stir in 3 tps. soy sauce, 4 tbs. black vinegar, and 1 tsp. sesame oil. Taste for heat, saltiness and sourness, and adjust in very small amounts to taste. Remember, you can always add more, you can't take it out! More black vinegar for sour, soy sauce for salty, and chili garlic sauce/sriracha/sambal oelek for heat.

6. Cut your tofu sheets into strips about as wide as they are thick. Then cut those in half. You should now have pieces about 1/3" x 1/3" by 1". Sprinkle the tofu lightly with Asian 5 spice powder, it's ok if they aren't completely coated.  Add the tofu to the pot and stir gently.

7. Mix the 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/4 cup water, stir completely. While your soup is still simmering, pour in the cornstarch slurry, slowly in a thin stream, to prevent clumps. When you've poured about half, check your soup if you still want it thicker, then add in more, as much as needed, a little at a time.

8. In a small bowl, beat your eggs. Then pour them in the same way you did the cornstarch, slowly and while stirring, to create those wispy egg flowers in the soup. Garnish with scallion or ramp, and serve!

* Wild honey mushrooms should always be pre-boiled before adding them to any dish, as they have a protein which causes gastro-intestinal irritation in some people, but it is removed by boiling. 

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