Sizzling Rice Soup

Few ingredients bring out the natural flavor of a rich chicken broth more than the toastiness of rice crust. Unfortunately, restaurants tend to clutter the soup with too many ingredients. This version contains only a little ham for salty flavor, mushrooms for smokiness, and bean curd for a contrasting texture. When hot rice crust meets hot soup, it sizzles and steams dramatically. Some people think it tastes a little like fresh popcorn.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups Chicken Broth
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Smithfield ham
  • 4 small cakes Chinese bean curd, cubed, rinsed in cold water
  • 6 large Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, squeezed dry, and shredded
  • 4 cups peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 Rice Crust

Garnish

  • Chopped scallions
  • Sesame oil

Method

  1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a pot and add the ham, bean curd, and mushrooms. Let it simmer 5 minutes.

  2. Heat the oil in a wok to very hot (about 380 degrees). Test the oil by dropping a small piece of rice crust into it. It should float immediately.

  3. Slip the whole rice crust into the oil.

  4. As it begins to puff up like popcorn, break it up into large chunks with long chopsticks. Turn it to brown on all sides (about 1 minute). Remove the rice and drain it.

  5. At the table, add the rice to the serving bowl of soup. It will sizzle as the steam rises and provide quite a show.

  6. Add the scallions and sesame oil just before serving. (The oil used for deep-frying can be cooled, strained through a fine sieve, and stored in a jar for future use.)

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