Punchinello’s Chronicles

October 24, 2008

Egg-Drop Soup on a Chilly Day

Filed under: Food & Recipes,Tips — Punchinello @ 10:00 pm
Tags: , ,

Parents are worrisome people. They tell kids all sorts of things, and the poor kids have no way of knowing the truth. They’re just a kid, after all, trying to figure out life. My parents would take us out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, every so often, and I looked forward to ordering Shark-Fin Soup.

My father told me how it was made from the fins of sharks, caught at great peril off the coast of China. Brave men would set sail on wooden “junks,” using harpoons and their bare hands to wrestle 12-foot sharks onto the boat. There, they’d bash ’em over the head with a club, cut off their fins, and toss the sharks overboard.

These fins were a great delicacy, favored by the Chinese people and brought to the world (and into our restaurant) for the sole purpose of making Shark-Fin Soup.

My frightening problem from that day forward was contemplating the image of all these sharks with no fins. I knew that the key danger indicator of a shark in the water about to eat me was the fin cutting through the water. I’d seen that in lots of movies. What if they had no fin? They would be stealth sharks, and I’d never know they were coming. We didn’t have psychotherapists in those days, sadly enough.

Many years later, probably when I was in my 30s, I happened to ask an English-speaking waiter in some other Chinese restaurant what I was eating. I’d ordered “egg-drop soup,” because when I learned to read, that was Shark-Fin Soup. (I asked, and my father said that those wily Chinese knew a lot of peple felt sorry for sharks.)

He told me it was Egg-Drop Soup. <sigh…..> I’ll bet there’s probably some ugly truth about Santa Clause, too, but I won’t ask.

They key is College Inn chicken broth. I’ve tried other brands, but they just don’t have that same flavor, y’know? The other key is cornstarch. When it’s heated, cornstarch turns transluscent. Flour remains cloudy.

1 can College Inn chicken broth
1 egg, lightly scrambled in a small bowl.
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
Clipped ends of some green onions (scallions)

  1. Put the 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch in a little bowl.
  2. Open the can of broth and pour in enough to mix with the starch, making a milky liquid.
  3. Pour the rest of the can into a 1qt pot, and start a medium heat.
  4. Add the milky starch liquid to the pan, and stir it around.
  5. Keep stirring every few minutes, as the broth heats toward boiling.
  6. Toss in the clipped ends of some scallions, mostly for color and texture, but also for some additional flavor.
  7. As the broth begins to boil, reduce to simmer, and continue heating. The soup will begin to thicken.
  8. Let it thicken until the cloudiness turns almost clear.
  9. While stirring the soup slowly, pour in the lightly scrambled egg.
  10. Depending on your taste for eggs, you can make the “threads” of cooked egg thin or chunky by stirring more or less.
  11. When the eggs harden, they’re cooked and the soup is done. (Takes only a minute or so.)

The soup will be very hot, so let it cool before you chow down. It’s very good, very filling, and has a unique flavor and texture, perfect for those cold winter afternoons when you want something to eat, but don’t know what.

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