I used to love shopping for food in the Chinatown district in Washington, D.C. The spices and vegetables all looked so foreign and exotic when I first started going there, but I got the hang of it eventually. This recipe for Hot and Sour Soup comes from a little market about a block away from the Verizon Center.
Hot and Sour Soup
Soak the wood ear mushrooms and black mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 30 minutes. Swish the mushrooms to remove any grit or dirt. Drain and slice them into thin slivers.
In a large soup pot, bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, tofu, bamboo shoots, pork, ginger, and lemon grass. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for three minutes. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, cayenne, sesame oil, and sugar. Simmer three minutes longer. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the cornstarch mixture, and cook, stirring, until the soup boils and thickens slightly.
Remove and discard the lemon grass. Remove the soup from the heat and slowly drizzle the egg, stirring in one direction, until the egg forms short threads. Ladle into bowls, garnish with cilantro and scallions, and serve immediately.