Hot and Southern

by Sarah on January 23, 2012 · 10 comments

No, the post title doesn’t refer to me. (Although that was clearly what you were thinking, right?) It refers to my latest and greatest soup recipe–

–inspired by a random, but lingering craving for hot and sour soup* and the fact that I happened to have leftover collard greens in the fridge.
*Odd, especially as I never liked it (or the Kung Pao Chicken) when Mama Smart odered it with my preferred Sweet & Sour Chicken on Chinese food night when I was a small child.
Just in time for the Chinese New Year (the Year of the Dragon, which, conveniently, starts today)*–and with a nod to the Hoppin’ John used to celebrate the lunar new year in the South–I present for your mouthwatering enjoyment: Hot ‘n Southern Soup.
*I swear I didn’t plan the timing of this. [Unlike with other holidays, from common to obscure. (National Popcorn Day, anyone?)]
I had marked a Hot and Sour Cabbage Soup recipe in one of the Moosewood Cookbooks, but then subequently couldn’t find it (typical). So, instead, I did my (online) research to develop a basic flavor profile for the soup, including the hot
 …and the sour.*
 *Can’t eat collards without it!
You could use rice vinegar, sure, but since I didn’t have cabbage, but I did have collard greens, the idea of a Southern-Asian fusion pot of subtle heat and lingering warmth became too strangely awesome NOT to pursue.

It just so happened I had some sample dried mushrooms that had been stored away and forgotten (and transported from Texas). They weren’t shitakes, but I figured it didn’t really matter since this soup was clearly non-traditional.

A hot water bath left me with not only scrumptious mushrooms, but also a lovely mushroom broth base (to which I added extra vegetable broth).
Tomatoes might not be a standard choice when making Asian soup, but they are a standard pairing with greens in the South, so I went ahead and added them into the reconstituted mushroom-and-vegetable broth anyway.
I also included some traditional hot-and-sour elements: cubed tofu…
…and sliced bamboo shoots.^
^I almost added some baby corn or water chestnuts, but things were already getting crazy enough in the pot. I (finally) chose that moment to “edit.”
Sliced scallions added a final (beautifying and flavorizing) touch.
If you’ve purchased yourself celebratory Chinese New Year soup bowls and spoons (which, for $2.00 each at the Asian market, why wouldn’t you?), now is the perfect time to use them.
Hot and Sour. Hot and Southern.
Who really cares when it tastes so surprisingly, incredibly good?
Happy (Chinese) New Year (of the Dragon) to you.
—————
 Hot ‘n Southern Soup
[Makes 14 cups (or so)]

1 cup dried mushrooms (shitake, porcini, chantarelle)
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 14.5.-oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (3/4 cup if you love vinegar)
3 Tbsp. sambal oelek [Chinese chili paste]
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2-inch piece fresh ginger
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
2 cups chopped, cooked collard greens
8 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 bunch (6) green onions, sliced

1. Place dried mushrooms in a large bowl. Pour boiling water on top to cover (about 2-3 cups). Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, until softened.
2. Pour mushrooms, broth, and tomatoes into a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.
3. Add vinegar, chili paste, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Bring broth up to a boil.
4. While broth is heating, grate ginger into the pot. [Don’t worry about using it all, unless you want to season the soup with blood from your fingers…]
5. Reduce heat to a simmer, and stir in bamboo shoots, collard greens, and tofu. Cook 5-10 minutes.
6. Add whites and light greens of green onions to the soup, saving greens for garnish. Cook 5-10 more minutes.

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