Nothing in Moscow comes easy and that is especially true when it comes to finding great Chinese food. It’s odd, you can get a California Roll on almost every street corner — though you have to be careful it doesn’t contain mayonnaise — and a burn-the-roof of your mouth off Tom Yum is never far away, but a good bowl of hot & sour soup? Almost impossible.
Hot & Sour soup, as everyone knows, was invented in New York City and I practically lived on it when I was a university student there. To this day, nothing is as satisfying as a hot bowl of H&S: it warms, it soothes, and it gives you the courage to get back to whatever you were up to.
I tried making H&S for a number of years, but I could never get the taste nor the texture right. I had almost resigned myself to erasing H&S from the Moscovore carte du jour when I happened upon Laura Kelly’s blog, The Silk Road Gourmet. If you haven’t visited Laura’s blog, make a point of doing so — its a smorgesboard of color and great recipes from down in Central Asia. She has developed a fantastic recipe for H&S using a number of authentic ingredients, some of which are hard to source up here in Moscow, but what Laura has done, for which I will be forever grateful, is unlock the mysteries of making the Hot & Sour soup stock. I made a batch and waited anxiously for it to rest and cool, then tasted it and knew I was on the right track!
Two key ingredients Laura correctly identified — black bean paste and lilly buds are not lurking in my Moscow pantry (yet) so I turned to America’s Test Kitchen for some help with the contents of the soup. Their paired down Hot & Sour recipe didn’t have the complexity of Laura’s broth, but it did contain items that I could easily find in Moscow. The tricky part was finding Black Chinese Vinegar which I did ultimately run to ground at Perekrostek Zelyonii on Smolensky. Everything else is readily available.
This hybrid result is a keeper! HRH (my “Handsome Russian Husband”) had about three bowls of it and pronounced it the best he’s had outside of Manhattan. High praise indeed! Give it a try! And if you see any lilly buds, tell us about it right here!
Serve, and enjoy!
Hey there readers! Do you hanker for a “salad days” favorite? Have you tried to reconstruct it? Tell us about it, by hitting the comment button below!