Eye of Newt and Wing of Bat Soup
“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” *
I don’t usually chant witches’ spells while cooking supper, much less stand there quoting Shakespeare, but I have to admit that Macbeth helped inspire this Halloween recipe.
While making my Thai Chicken Soup with Wood Ear Mushrooms, I realized that those big chewy mushrooms would be a great stand-in for bat wings in a Halloween recipe!
Chinese Wood Ear Mushrooms (also called black fungus or cloud ear) are available dried, in the produce section of some local supermarkets, at Asian grocery stores or online at Amazon.com. They are called wood ears because they look like big ears growing on trees. They add a wonderful chewy texture to dishes like hot and sour soup and are very distinctive from other mushrooms we generally eat. When rehydrated, wood ear mushrooms become two to three times the original (dried) size. Dried wood ear mushrooms are available whole or thinly sliced. For the bat wings I prefer whole wood ear mushrooms broken into bite sized pieces.
For the newt eyes, I like to use large pearl tapioca. As in many families, our kids always called tapioca “fish eyes and glue.” It comes from the cassava yucca plant (manioc), is easy to cook and will add a nice gooey eyeball-like garnish to the soup. The flavor is very neutral, not sweet at all, so it will perfectly absorb the savory flavors of the soup. If you don’t have any large pearl tapioca, large couscous is a good substitute, especially if you can find the tri-color couscous and portion out the green ones for the newt eyes.
So put on your pointy black hat and get cooking!
EYE OF NEWT & WING OF BAT SOUP (a.k.a. Hot & Sour Soup)
1/2 cup large pearl tapioca cooked in water without sweeteners -or - 1/2 cup cooked large couscous (preferable green spinach)
1 oz. dried wood ear mushrooms, broken into large pieces
For the marinade:
1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. rice wine (or sherry)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 lb. lean pork loin, cut into thin strips (julienned)
For the soup:
6 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 tsp. hot chili oil (or Sriracha sauce)
1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbsp. water
1 large egg, beaten
Shredded carrots & sliced scallions for garnish
Put the dried wood ear mushrooms into a heatproof container such as a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup, cover with boiling water and let sit 20 minutes to reconstitute the mushrooms. Add more water if necessary.
In a medium bowl, combine the marinade ingredients and pork strips. Set aside for about 15 minutes to marinate.
Drain the mushrooms and discard the water. As the mushrooms reconstitute and plump, some may become too large - cut into bite-sized pieces. Trim away and discard any hard stems.
Into a medium cauldron put the soup ingredients and bring to a boil. Add the mushroom pieces, pork and all marinade and let simmer on low for 15 minutes until the pork is cooked and the soup has thickened.
Slowly add the beaten egg into the soup, stirring constantly so it forms thin wisps (as in egg drop soup). Remove from the heat.
Serve in individual soup bowls, topped with several "eyes of newts" (tapioca or couscous) and some shredded carrots and scallions.
For an even more flavorful version, use duck breast instead of the pork. If you'd like, you can also add some cubed tofu, thinly sliced bamboo shoots or mung bean sprouts to the simmering soup.
*William Shakespeare, Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 1