Hot and Sour Asian Soup (with wood ears, whatever those are)

Want to make a really good soup that seems like you shouldn’t be able to make it at home?

Then this is your recipe, Veganomicon is your book, and I am your man-boy.  Though the authors describe it as “totally inauthentic,” this is one of those soups like so many other Indian and other Asian dishes that have a way of captivating the taste buds and whisking you away to an enchanting foreign land.  (Disclaimer: Not really.)

This soup was fantastic.  Hot and fantastic.  Since I don’t understand the alchemy that creates such wonderful flavors, I don’t have much else to say about it.  I will say three things, though:

1.  It has tofu in it. If Nasoya hadn’t sent me some coupons to try out their tofu for free, I probably would have left it out and made the soup as an appetizer instead of a meal.  As it was, I added some noodles to boost the carb count.  That turned out to be a grave mistake, since the noodles soaked up all the soup overnight and rendered my leftovers disgusting.  (As for the Nasoya, it tasted like—surprise!—tofu.)

2.  It’s really spicy, in a very good way. The recipe calls for chile oil, and the authors implore the reader not to cheap out and use regular hot sauce.  (I had to buy chile oil since I’d never used it, but now I’m hooked.  I’m substituting it for hot sauce on everything.)

I actually used only half the amount called for and still found the soup spicy enough to warn Erin and her spicy-food aversion not to come near it.  Of course, it just occurred to me that I messed up and used white chili powder instead of white pepper when I made it, so that might have had something to do with the heat.

3.  The recipe calls for dried wood ear mushrooms. Aside from sounding weird, these are hard to find: Not even my health food store had them.  I substituted shiitakes, as suggested in Veganomicon. Since they weren’t dried, I went with 5 ounces instead of .5 ounces.

Sad news: March is over, so this’ll be my last Veganomicon recipe for while.  If you’ve enjoyed the recipes, you can use my Amazon affiliate link to buy it, so I get paid and can pimp my ride and such.  Thanks to Isa and Terry of the Post Punk Kitchen for letting me share some recipes with you!

I will say nothing else to disturb this perfect, pristine (totally inauthentic) soup.  Until after the recipe.

Hot and Sour Soup with Wood Ears and Napa Cabbage

From Veganomicon, posted with permission

  • 1/2 ounce dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 8 leaves napa cabbage
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons Asian hot chile oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups thick-sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 heaping arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup scallions

Place the wood ear mushrooms in a bowl and pour boiling water over them so that they are submerged by a few inches.  Cover with a plate and let sit for 20 minutes.

To prepare the napa leaves, lay them on top of each other so that they’re spooning.  Thinly slice across them widthwise.  Set aside.

Pour the vegetable broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot chile oil, sesame oil and white pepper into a soup pot.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once the broth is boiling, add the cabbage and the fresh mushrooms.  Cook until the cabbage is completely wilted, about 5 minutes.

The wood ears should be ready at this point, so remove them from the bowl, cut into bite-size pieces, and add them to the soup as well.

Mix the arrowroot with the water until dissolved.  Add to the soup and stir until just slightly thickened, a minute or two.  The soup isn’t going to be very thick, just more cloudy than anything else.  But the starch gives the soup a little body.

Add the shredded carrots and tofu, and cook just until heated through, about 5 more minutes.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with scallions to serve.

More people who are pulling back the curtain on the wizard of java

I don’t hate coffee.  In fact, I love it.  Since I’ve cut back via randomization, I’m not drinking it most days now.  But I’ve been successful for the past two weeks at enjoying one small cup of full-caf coffee each week, without going apeshit and drinking it every day afterward, like last time I tried to moderate.

I came across two posts recently that encouraged me in my fight against the daily jolt.  The first was from Sonal on her blog Keep Running Girl, where she cites a medical review that links caffeine to those scary, seemingly-random, ultra-healthy endurance runner deaths during races that freak out paranoid people like me.

On a far lighter note, Sonal also sent me a picture of her in her NMA shirt.

(Remember all those women’s smalls I got in stock?  Like 2 left.)

The other coffee post was from Gena at Choosing Raw, in her post Coming Clean About My Daily Cup of Joe.  Gena has actually recently started drinking coffee again, so it’s an interesting perspective.  Speaking of Gena, a little birdie told me you might be hearing more from her in the near future…

Alright, I’m out.  Track workout time, maybe with sis Christine, my new roommate.  One more thing before I go: If you or someone you know is thinking about going vegetarian but not sure how to make it happen, be on the lookout for a new post about exactly that.  Lots of people have been asking me recently, so I figured it’d be nice to have it all in one place.

Seacrest, out.



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  1. Soup sounds really yum, wow I love the addition of tofu, spices. Wood ear mushroom? never heard of it, sounds interesting.
    .-= Ann´s last blog ..Quick Snack =-.

  2. You can find wood ear mushrooms in Asian supermarkets. Not sure if you have one near you. They are black and have the consistency of kelp once cooked, of course with a woodsy flavor. Your shiitake sub probably didn’t change it too much but I love wood ear.

  3. I adore the Veganomicon so much. I’m not a hot and sour type of person, but I might give this soup a try… I believe that the boyfriend enjoys that combo so he’d appreciate it!
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Budgeting: Part One: Understanding Your Expenses =-.

  4. First time here…GREAT GREAT reads! I have been sucked in for over an hour!! 🙂
    .-= Kelly @ Healthy Living With Kelly´s last blog ..Tuesday Fighter =-.

  5. Sarah W. says:

    I’m super sad your run of Veganomicon is over 🙁 I’ve really enjoyed your commentary on some of the recipes and you’ve brought my attention to recipes I completely looked over (i.e. hot & sour soup & pinto/plantain stew) and have now added to my menu planning 😀 I usually prefer wonton over hot and sour soup but I do like hot and sour – just not as good as wonton – hmmm maybe hubs will like the hot & sour recipe?!?! thanks for letting us know about the noodles – I probably would have tried to add Udon Noodles but now I know not to 😉

  6. Matt, you sucked me in w/ the “only 2 left” comment about the shirts… I placed my order!!! 🙂 Can’t wait to wear my new running shirt with pride!
    .-= Shari B.´s last blog ..Now That Was Better =-.

  7. The soup looks glorious. I will definitely be making it.

  8. Just came across your site while searching for more info on Brendan Brazier’s book, and, just like Kelly, have been sucked into reading and browsing the recipes. I didn’t waste any time and have already tried a few of them! I have been considering buying “Thrive”, but after reading the awesome recipes you’ve shared from the book, have decided to go ahead and order it. So, thanks for helping me make my decision. (Brendan should pay you for the great marketing… or at least send you Vega products! lol).

    Anyway, your site has definitely been bookmarked and I’ll make it one of my regular stops on the interweb. 🙂

  9. I’ve never heard of those mushrooms before but I bet this mushroom stand at the local farmers market would have them, they have so many types I’ve never even heard of.

    I’ve actually kicked coffee but can enjoy a cup over the weekend and not feel the need to drink it the next day, never have I been like that before, it’s great!

  10. Another interesting thing about the name Wood Ear is that its synonym is Jew’s Ear. [I did not make it up, as you can search it.] Supposedly it got its name from the mushrooms that were growing on the tree that Judas hung himself.

    I first encountered this when reading the ingredients of a frozen package of ChiMei veg dumplings. Funny that I was inspecting to see if the ingredients were vegan-friendly and saw this item.


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