I love Chinese food. I love the well-balanced aromatic flavours. I love the freshness of the ingredients. I love the ritual of the Chinese takeaway, opening the boxes to release the inviting aromas, eating with chopsticks, giving up half-way through and using a fork! It's one of the cuisines I have missed the most since being diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. I have yet to find a restaurant or takeaway that I am confident enough in to serve gluten free offerings. Mostly, due to Chinese cookery making use of soy sauce as a seasoning, I worry about cross contamination. I do make it at home from time to time and I am always on the look-out for recipes that can easily be converted to gluten free and still taste convincing. For some time, I have been trying to find a light soy sauce alternative, as generally gluten free tamari tends to be more like dark soy, but I search no more! Kikkoman gluten free tamari is a great light soy sauce substitute and it is now available in Sainsburys.
Recently, I had a craving for my old takeaway favourite, hot and sour soup. It's a brilliantly spicy, comforting soup, packed with flavour and a delicious sour element from rice vinegar. I used to have it as a starter, but with the addition of noodles it becomes a thoroughly satisfying meal. I have a quick and not particularly authentic version that I often whip up as a speedy snack but, I wanted something more like the soup I used to get from my local Chinese restaurant.
Whenever I feel the urge to cook Chinese food there are two chefs I check out: Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang. Ken Hom is the Godfather of Chinese cookery in my opinion, and has been cooking on TV for almost as long as I have been alive. Ching-He Huang uses fresh and simple ingredients to reinvent traditional dishes, and between the two of them I am guaranteed to find a fantastic recipe that I love.
Hot and Sour Soup
As far as I can tell, the basic elements of this soup are, Chinese mushrooms, stock, bean curd, shredded lean meat, white pepper, soy sauce, Chinese vinegar, spring onion, cornflour, egg and coriander, everything else is probably optional and depend on your own preferences. My version doesn't include bean curd for the simple reason that I don't really like it! If you do, feel free to add it.
1 tsp ginger root, grated
a large handful of mushrooms (I used frozen mixed mushrooms)
2 spring onions, sliced
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (Waitrose Ingredients have one, but if you can't find it balsamic vinegar works just as well)
1 tbsp gluten free tamari
1l vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
300g cooked chicken, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water
100g bamboo shoots, sliced into thin sticks
100g baby corn, quartered lengthwise
50g mange tout
10g coriander leaf, roughly chopped
- In a little vegetable oil, gently fry the ginger and mushrooms to soften. Add the white part of the spring onion and fry for a further minute.
- Add the vinegar and tamari and combine well, then add the stock, white pepper and shredded chicken. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
- Combine the egg and sesame oil and trickle the mixture into the soup, stirring gently to produce ribbon-like pieces of egg. Add the cornflour slurry and stir gently as the soup thickens.
- Add bamboo shoots, baby corn and mange tout and leave soup to simmer for 2-3 minutes to heat the vegetables but do not allow them to soften (you want them to have crunch).
- Serve soup scattered with chopped coriander and the green parts of the spring onion.
Here are the original recipes if you'd rather make one of those.
(Oh, and those fortune cookies are not gluten free - alas - but Saara at The Gluten Free Student Cookbook has a recipe that you can try out.)