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Cheat's Shark's Fin Soup

Shark's fin soup is a renowned delicacy. In this poor man's vegetarian version cellophane noodles, cut into short lengths, mimic shark's fin needles.

ingredients

serves 4 - 6
4 dried Chinese mushrooms
25 ml (1 1/2 tbsp) dried wood ears
115 g (4 oz) cellophane noodles
30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
2 carrots, cut into fine strips
115 g (4 oz) canned bamboo shoots, rinsed, drained and cut into fine strips
1 litre (1 3/4 pints) 4 cups vegetable stock
15 ml (1 tbsp) soy sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) arrowroot or potato flour
30 ml (2 tbsp) water
1 egg white, beaten (optional)
5 ml (1 tsp) sesame oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions, finely chopped, to garnish
Chinese red vinegar, to serve (optional)

method

1. Soak the mushrooms and wood ears separately in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain well. Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms and slice the caps thinly. Cut the wood ears into fine strips, discarding any hard bits. Soak the noodles in hot water until soft. Drain and cut into short lengths. Leave until required.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the wood ears, stir-fry for 2 minutes, then stir in the carrots, bamboo shoots and noodles.

3. Add the stock to the pan. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 - 20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and soy sauce.

4. Blend the arrowroot or potato flour with a little water. Pour into the soup, stirring all the time to prevent lumps from forming as the soup continues to simmer.

5. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the egg white if using, so that it sets to form small threads in the hot soup. Stir in the sesame oil, then pour the soup into individual bowls. Sprinkle each portion with chopped spring onions and offer the Chinese red vinegar separately, if using.

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