Chinese New Year and Super Bowl 50 ft. Hot and Sour Soup

First of all, I can’t believe this is post number 3 and I have already fallen behind. Long story short is that grad school life/responsibilities are really hard to manage at the moment. The truth is I have been cooking and taking pictures for the blog, but not writing (ooops). Luckily for us, Tim is very invested in this project. Let me give you a quick example. When he asked me what I was doing today, I quickly proceeded to roll my eyes, make a puppy face (yes, guilty as charged), and grumble something along the lines of “Oh, what I do every Sunday this semester: cluelessly staring at my homework and preparing for my thermo office hours this week.” To which Tim responded with, “Aaaaaaand writing a new food blog post, right? It won’t take you that long. And yes, you should also take a Zumba break in the afternoon.” So thank you Tim, for always having my back 🙂

I must admit that some aspects about grad school life are pretty sweet (and worth mentioning here!) and my research group’s potlucks are one of them. Since Super Bowl 50 and Chinese New Years Eve were both happening on February 7, we decided to share Chinese food at our Super Bowl watch party (plus some Tex-mex because even if we are not Texans, how can we resist Tex-mex?). An unconventional Super Bowl party that does not revolve around hot wings with sticky artificial bbq sauce? Yes, sign me up please! No offense to chicken wings with bbq sauce lovers, but I’m not a fan of those. We did have amazing fried chicken, so I’m not a crazy person. But I digress because the delicious fried chicken was not my doing.

So I was on board and very excited about this Chinese food potluck idea, except for the fact that I didn’t really know how to make authentic Chinese food. I was tempted to figure out how to make sweet and sour pork or orange chicken, but when you have a Chinese postdoc and people who have lived in China and other Asian countries in your research group, it seems lame to try to replicate something on the menu of Panda Express. I will always love orange chicken and sweet sour pork for the record, but I’m pretty sure I’m never going to eat the orange chicken from Panda Express again (I blame undergrad life on a budget). Turns out that Evan came to my rescue and suggested I make hot and sour soup. He said it was really tasty and not too difficult to make. I had no idea what hot and sour soup was, but Evan has impeccable taste so how could I refuse? I went online to find a recipe and stumbled upon one by Jamie Oliver. If you don’t know Jamie Oliver, he’s a British chef who has done many TV shows and Ted Talks. Fun fact: I discovered him while watching a cooking channel with my grandma. The recipe’s ingredient list was kind of long and overwhelming, but I knew I couldn’t go wrong with Jamie. Plus, the recipe was vegetarian and some hot and sour recipes had pork in them (I’m not a vegetarian but many of my friends are). I had found a recipe, I had signed up for hot and sour soup on the white board, and there was no turning back. Don’t get me wrong, I was eager to try a new recipe and excited about the challenge, but I was also nervous. I didn’t want to fail at hot and sour soup in front of my friends and labmates. For example, I had never cooked with tofu before. And what are bamboo shoots anyways?!

Nonetheless, I was optimistic because a) I had Central Market and b) I knew what Shitake mushrooms were. I enlisted Tim’s help and together we managed to find all the ingredients expect for bamboo shoots. We searched so many aisles in vain, so we finally had to ask someone who worked there to help us find them. Of course the person we asked had no idea what we were talking about and he totally judged us (only Pandas eat bamboo, right?). He called for reinforcements on his radio and further embarrassed us by saying: “I have customers looking for this thing called bamboo…bamboo what again?” I’m glad I brought Tim along so we could both make a fool of ourselves 🙂 In case you are curious, below there is a picture of what bamboo shoots look like. You can think of them as the Asian equivalent of Heart of Palm.12699

On February 7, I showed up at my friends’ house with all my ingredients because I decided it would be best to cook the soup in their kitchen rather than trying to figure out how to carry it and time the heating properly (the recipe has very specific heating steps). I mainly wanted to use their mortar and pestle because I don’t own one. Yes, I know I know, shame on me (how do I manage to make guac anyways?!) Well, my birthday is coming up so if you don’t know what to get me, I would love a mortar and pestle (No, not you Tim. You have to do way better than a mortar and pestle hahaha). I had so much fun making the soup and for my first trial, I think it was a hit. I got really good reviews! The only thing I regret is that I was so nervous while cooking that I forgot to take step by step pictures. I’m still so disappointed I don’t have those pictures. But I do have a picture of the end product before most of it was consumed.

2016-02-07 Hot and Sour Soup
My Hot and Sour Soup! You can see the shitake mushroom, tofu, chives, and green onions happily floating around.

In summary, Evan really liked the soup and his team won the Super Bowl. Tim ate a shitake mushroom and he liked it even though he hates mushrooms. I would say it was very successful evening. The year of the Monkey of Fire is really testing my willpower and patience, but at least I have heart warming hot and sour soup to keep me company.

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