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A Minimalist Masterpiece

October 28, 1998|MARION CUNNINGHAM

When I was young, the best soup in the world seemed boring. But once I turned 40, I suddenly found soup high on my list for a good supper. One of my favorites, welcome any time of the year, is splendid old Chinese hot and sour soup.

There is a wonderful saying about cuisine: "The French have done the most with the most and the Chinese have done the most with the least." This soup is a perfect example of this saying. It has lots of spirited flavor and well-matched texture. And if you care, it is practically calorie-free.

To make it, you need buy only a few mushrooms, a half bunch of spinach, a bunch of cilantro and some tofu. If you cook Chinese dishes even occasionally, you will probably have soy sauce, hot pepper oil and sesame oil on hand.

As a conclusion to this soup supper, ginger rice pudding nicely meets the East. Serve the pudding warm.

CHINESE HOT AND SOUR SOUP

6 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

1 1/2 cups spinach, washed

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 1/4 tablespoons sesame oil

Hot pepper oil or sauce

3/4 pound tofu, cut into small dice

3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 5 tablespoons of water

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

2 green onions, finely chopped

Simmer chicken broth, mushrooms and spinach in soup pot over medium heat.

Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, sesame oil and hot pepper oil to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon) in small bowl until well blended. Add mixture to broth. Taste and correct seasonings. Add tofu and cornstarch, stirring constantly until thickened. Pour egg into broth, stirring constantly until it forms ribbons. Add cilantro and green onions and serve at once.

6 servings. Each serving:

209 calories; 1,046 mg sodium; 36 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams protein; 0.37 gram fiber.

GINGER RICE PUDDING

3 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked rice

1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Combine milk, sugar, salt and cooked rice in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Simmer until thick, about 20 minutes. Stir in ginger. Serve warm.

6 servings. Each serving:

209 calories; 261 mg sodium; 9 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 40 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

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