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They say that chicken soup is Jewish penicillin, and strong black tea with plenty of milk and sugar is Scottish penicillin. When I come down with a cold, I always make Linnet’s penicillin: Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup!

There’s nothing like soup when you’ve got a head cold, but this stuff is the best. The heat and steam are soothing. The salinity bathes your throat tissues, and helps you retain the fluid you need. The sourness is good for dry throat syndrome and coughs. It might seem counterintuitive to put powerful “hot” spices like black pepper and ginger in the soup, but they’re great as decongestants.


Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

1 medium onion
1 T vegetable oil for frying
Vegetables of choice (mushrooms, bamboo shoots, etc)
4 cups vegetable stock (salted) or 4 cups water plus 1 cube Knorr vegetable bouillon
1 T fresh ginger, finely grated
1/4 cup tamari, or to taste
2-3 T red wine vinegar, or to taste
2-3 T corn starch
black pepper
2 eggs from Happy Chickens, whisked
1 block firm or extra firm tofu, cut into dice
3-4 scallions, sliced
handful coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish
cooked rice (optional)

1. Slice the onion thinly and put into a large saucepan with the oil. Sauté until it turns translucent; add the other sliced veggies and the ginger and sauté briefly.

2. Add the vegetable stock to the pan and let the mixture come to a simmer. Meanwhile mix the tamari, red wine vinegar and cornstarch in a measuring cup. Add about 10 grinds of fresh black pepper. This is your “heat” so be sure to use fresh pepper from a grinder.

3. Whisk up the tamari/cornstarch mixture again and pour into the soup. Allow the soup to thicken a bit as it cooks. Then drizzle the whisked eggs into the simmering soup, over the tines of a fork so they dribble in gradually. This will create the famous “egg flower” effect as the eggs cook and rise to the top!

4. When the egg flower looks fully cooked, drop in the tofu to “break” the flower, and stir well.

5. Mix in the green vegetables at the end, or use them as garnishes. To serve, place a serving of rice in the bottom of a bowl and ladle the soup over it.

The original recipe came from a Chinese cookbook, and it used a combination of dark and light soy sauces, which you could substitute for the tamari. However, I think tamari is amazingly delicious, and of a higher quality than the soy sauce available to me locally (Kikkoman!), so that’s what I use. You can vary the seasonings in this to suit your own preferences. It’s a very flexible recipe.

If you’re sick and don’t feel like making an elaborate soup, just prepare the broth of bouillon, tamari, red wine vinegar and black pepper (with or without cornstarch). It’s a lifesaver and you can sip it from a mug as you huddle in bed watching Fred Astaire movies.