I like tomato soup – a lot. I love hot-and-sour soup.
I also like a mess called Tom's crazy slaw salad. I slice a couple of plum tomatoes, thin-slice some cucumber, chop some cabbage, throw it all into a stainless-steel bowl and toss it together with a little extra-virgin olive oil, plenty of rice vinegar, sugar, sea salt, black pepper and – as Martin Yan would say – a tiny, tiny bit of soy sauce. (As you can tell, I don't measure ingredients for this salad.) So, what does all that have to do with soup? I'm getting there.
Today, I reached into the fridge and pulled out a bowl of leftover slaw salad and a bowl of leftover mushrooms, onions and garlic that had been sauteed in butter. What to do with this stuff, I wondered. I thought about the hot-and-sour soup I had yesterday at the China Pearl restaurant. Hmm. I thought about the rice vinegar in the slaw. I thought about the velvety deliciousness of the buttery mushrooms, onions and garlic. I thought about some little meatballs we had in the freezer. Suddenly, the soup light went off inside my head. That's it! I would invent Tom's crazy hot-and-sour soup!
I grabbed my favorite big sauce pan that doubles as my favorite small soup pot. I threw in all the leftovers – probably two cups of slaw salad and a cup of the mushroom mix – along with a couple of cups of beef broth and some splats of soy sauce and a drizzle of mirin and a blop of Vietnamese chili-garlic sauce and a few drips of Vietnamese fish sauce that actually comes from Hong Kong. I heated it all on medium heat until it came to a bubble – a gentle bubble, a slow boil, you know. Then I added seven of the meatballs and let 'er simmer a while. After less than an hour, I busted each meatball in half and decided to add a can of condensed tomato soup to the pot, along with a can of hot water and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Another 15 minutes on the stove, and it was ready to taste. By Jove, it worked. Good stuff!
Behold, oh soup gods, Tom's crazy hot-and-sour tomato soup. That's what we'll call it. Now, chow down!