Monday, April 22, 2013

Hot and Sour Soup 酸辣湯

Sour is one of the four basic tastes (the other three are salty, sweet and bitter). In recent years, scientists have confirmed that there is another taste called umami (means delicious and taste in Japanese). It is described as savory and meaty and is produced by a common amino acid glutamate. Actually the discovery of this taste is not new. In 1909, a Japanese scientist called Ikeda had isolated a white compound from sea kelp. It is believed that this compound--glutamate/glutamic acid--gives savory and meaty flavor in food. It has been isolated by the food industry and is now commonly known as monosodium glutamate (MSG). Until recently in 2000, the receptor in our tongue for glutamate has been discovered. As a result, the fifth taste--umami--is formally confirmed.

What kind of food has glutamate? To name a few: kelp, seaweed, soy sauce, fish sauce, tomato, dried bonito flakes, mushroom, chicken, etc. No wonder Japanese broth is so tasty !

Go back to hot and sour soup. Hot or spicy, strictly speaking, is not a taste. We do not have a receptor in the tongue for it. It is said to be only a sensation that we feel. No matter what, hot and sour soup is loved by many people (even my son, who disguises anything sour, loves this soup). It can really wake up our taste buds.

Whenever you have a blank tasting dish, think about the five tastes--sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami--and add the appropriate seasonings. You will be surprised how a little bit of this and that can add depth and complexity to your dish.

Ref: The Science of Good Cooking, Cook's Illustrated, 2012. This is a keeper. I highly recommend it.


那麼什麼食物有最多天然谷氨酸成份呢? 其實很多食物本身含有天然豐富的谷氨酸,如海帶、紫菜、豉油、番茄、柴魚、香菇類、鷄肉等等。無怪乎日本湯那麼好味道!


煮完一味餸但發覺淡而無味? 請記着這五種味道--咸、甜、酸、苦及鮮--加些少調味品,你會發現它們能大大提升餸菜的味道。

Ingredients to make a large pot:
8-10 cups chicken stock 清鷄湯
1 piece tofu, cut into strips 豆腐,切絲
1 medium sized bamboo shoot, shredded 冬筍,切絲
4 oz chicken or pork meat, shredded 雞或豬肉,切絲
5 black mushrooms, shredded after soaking 東菇,浸軟後切絲
6 pieces black fungus, shredded after soaking 黑木耳,浸軟後切絲
1/3-1/2 cup white vinegar 白醋
1 tsp salt 鹽
1-2 tbsp chili oil 辣椒油
1 tbsp ground white pepper 白胡椒粉
1 tbsp dark soy sauce 老抽
1 egg, beaten 蛋,打散
6 tbsp cornstarch in 1/3 cup water 玉米粉,用水開好

1)  Soak black mushrooms and black fungus until soft. Cut into shreds.
2)  Cut meat and marinate with salt, sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.
3)  Cut tofu into shreds. Peel the brown part of the bamboo shoot and discard. Cut into shreds.
4)  Bring the chicken stock and the vinegar to a boil. Put the meat in and cook for a few minutes.
5)  Put the mushrooms, black fungus, bamboo shoots and let it cook for a few minutes.
6)  Prepare the cornstarch slur and put in the pot while stirring to prevent lumps.
7)  Add salt, chili oil, white pepper and dark soy sauce. Stir well and taste. Adjust to your own taste.
8)  Add tofu. Turn off the heat and add the beaten egg while stirring gently.

Note: adjust the amount of vinegar, chili oil and pepper to your own taste. Canned bamboo shoot can substitute fresh one. Add tofu last to prevent it from breaking from repeated stirring.



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