I lust after this hot, sour, salty, peppery (rather than chilli-hot) Sichuanese soup whenever the temperature drops, because it's just so warming and satisfying on every level. And I love it when you put too much Sichuan pepper on it and it makes your tongue go numb.
100g pork fillet
1 celery stalk
2 tsp cornflour
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked
100g bamboo shoots, rinsed
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled
50g fresh or soaked, dry wood-ear fungus
1.4 litres chicken stock
50g sliced Sichuan preserved vegetable*
100g fresh tofu, diced
2 spring onions (green part only), sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp cornflour, mixed with 2 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
2 tbsp black vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground
* available canned from Asian food stores.
1. Cut pork into thin matchstick lengths, toss with cornflour and salt, and set aside. Finely grate the celery lengthwise into fine filaments and set aside.
2. Drain the mushrooms, trim and finely slice. Cut mushrooms, bamboo shoots, ginger, and fungus into matchsticks.
3. Bring the chicken stock to the boil. Add the mushrooms, bamboo shoots, ginger, fungus, and Sichuan vegetables and simmer for three minutes.
4. Add the pork strips, tofu, spring onions, soy sauce, salt and cornflour mixture, stirring, until the stock thickens.
5. Pour the beaten egg gradually into the simmering soup through the tines of a fork and stir through until it forms fine shreds. Remove from the heat, and add the celery, coriander, vinegar, sesame oil and Sichuan pepper.
To serve: Add extra vinegar and pepper to get the right balance of hot and sour, and serve.