Occasionally my curiosity gets the better of me while I’m meandering through the supermarket and I bring home something that I usually would not buy. This time is was a box of Swanson’s Chinese Hot & Sour Flavor Infused Broth. Usually the “flavor infused” would be a signal to walk on by. Since I do use Swanson’s chicken and beef broths and stocks, I stopped and looked at the ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t feel as if I were in the chemistry lab stockroom, so I bought it.
I do really like hot and sour soup–it’s my usual test of a Chinese restaurant–usually disappointing since my standard was set in Hong Kong! I don’t see another trip to Hong Kong in the future, so I thought I’d try it. My expectations were not really high as I opened the box and tasted it, but it was better than I’d thought–the hot and the sour were pretty well-balanced. It’s main problem was that it tasted boxed–in other words, it needed some brightening up–like most boxed or canned stocks or broths.
Armed with my box of broth, I decided that although I wanted hot and sour flavor, I didn’t want to buy esoteric ingredients that I might not use again for a while just to try it out. I thought maybe I could do something that was in the “spirit” of hot and sour soup with what I found in the fridge and pantry without a trip to the Asian market. So no tree ears or lily buds, and not even bamboo shoots.
I found a basket of sliced mushrooms in the fridge, shelled edamame and collard greens in the freezer, water chestnuts in the pantry, and some rotisserie chicken and some pork in the fridge that needed given a re-do. My only addition was a very large handful of julienned carrots (from the salad bar of my local Harris Teeter).
Since this was one of those OMG-I-don’t-have-time-to-cook occasions, I got out the rice cooker (cum slow-cooker) and added the hot and sour “flavor-infused” broth. I sautéed the mushrooms in just a bit of peanut oil until browned and gave the carrots a brief swish through the pan with the mushrooms, deglazed the skillet with a bit of the broth, and poured that into the slow-cooker. I added the edamame, collard greens, and the water chestnuts and set it for two hours.
When the collard greens and edamame were done (about 2 hours) I added the chicken and pork to heat through. At the same time I added a piece of fresh ginger root and a small clove of garlic to “freshen” the flavors up a bit.
Obviously not a traditional hot and sour soup, but it was a good test of the “flavor infused” broth, and pretty tasty with the chicken and pork to add some richness, and the textural variety of the mushrooms, greens and water chestnuts. A garnish of green onions when served finished it off nicely. (I didn’t add the eggs, either.)
Verdict on the broth–not bad–actually much better than I expected– but if I’m going to make traditional real Chinese hot and sour soup (with tree ears and lily buds) I will start with my own stock–besides, I really like my hot and sour soup with pork. But if it’s just hot and sour I want, I might use another box of “flavor infused” broth!
A son goût!