Fiery Sichuan Soup

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One of the great virtues of Chinese and most oriental cookery is their adaptability when confronted with new influences. This hot and spicy soup, now so popular in the West, is traditionally made with pork but, when dried mushrooms and cloud ears (black fungus) are substituted, the soup retains its excellent qualities and remains a substantial and nutritious meal. Do try to obtain the dried mushrooms and cloud ears — their textures are quite special.

Ingredients

  • 50 g (2 oz) bean thread (transparent) noodles
  • 15 g (½ oz) Chinese dried mushrooms
  • 15 g (½ oz) Chinese dried cloud ears (black fungus)
  • 100 g (4 oz) bamboo shoots, shredded
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chilli oil
  • 1 tablespoon black rice vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Garnish

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions

Method

Soak the noodles in a large bowl of warm water for 15 minutes. When they are soft, drain and discard the water. Cut the noodles into 7.5 cm (3 in) lengths, using scissors or a knife.

Soak the dried mushrooms and cloud ears in separate bowls of warm water for 20 minutes until soft. Squeeze the excess liquid from the mushrooms and remove and discard the stalks. Rinse the cloud ears in cold water, drain well and leave whole. Shred the mushroom caps finely. Finely shred the bamboo shoots. Beat the egg and sesame oil together in a small bowl.

Bring the stock to simmering point in a large pan. Add the mushrooms, cloud ears, bamboo shoots, noodles and the rest of the ingredients, except the egg mixture and spring onions. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Finally, pour the beaten egg mixture into the soup in a steady stream. Pull the egg into strands with a fork or chopsticks. Garnish with the spring onions and pour the soup into a large tureen or individual bowls. Serve at once.

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