Iceberg Lettuce and Egg Drop Soup

This recipe is from my friend Steve Wong’s family. His people, like so many other Chinese-Americans, grew up poor and cut off from their homeland, so they gradually adapted Western produce to southern Chinese cuisine. The ingredients they used were usually dictated by cost. Iceberg lettuce, a Californian staple, was inexpensive and filling. Its light, sweet flavour, faint green colour and versatility make it a perfect foil to Chinese cookery. Here it is combined with eggs to make a simple and quick soup, useful for a working family. It is known as ‘egg drop soup’ because the mixed egg mixture is slowly dropped in a steady stream into the liquid. The result is a gentle, fragile soup that is tasty and delicious.

I have altered the original recipe by adding the lettuce at the last minute to preserve its crispy texture. The heat of the soup is enough to cook the lettuce to perfection.

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Ingredients

  • 1 litre ( pints) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions, white part only
  • 225 g (8 oz) iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onion greens, to garnish

Method

Pour the chicken stock into a pot and bring it to a simmer.

Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl and then mix in the sesame oil.

Toss the sugar, salt, pepper and soy sauce into the simmering stock and give it several good stirs. Next toss in the white spring onions, and then drizzle in the egg mixture in a very slow, thin stream. Using a chopstick or fork, pull the egg slowly into strands. (I have found that stirring the egg in a figure eight works quite well.)

Remove the soup from the heat and toss in the shredded lettuce, stirring all the while. Garnish with the finely chopped spring onion greens and serve at once.

Variation

For a more substantial soup, add 225 g (8 oz) bok choy. Prepare the bok choy by separating the leaves and stalks and cutting the leaves into 5 cm (2 in) pieces. Peel the stalks, cut them into diagonal slices and wash them in several changes of water. Add the bok choy when you toss the spring onion whites into the stock and finish the recipe as above.

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