I often ask my husband for help when I'm deciding on what to cook for dinner. In fact, deciding on the menu is the toughest part of the dinner preparation process. He is helpful, well, 30% of the time. Trust me. It's better than nothing. For him, eating was more of a necessity as opposed to an enjoyment. He eats because he has to, not because he wants to. He never really had much interest in food before, but I've been trying to open his eyes to the pleasures of food. Now he spends a lot of time in the kitchen as my designated sous chef, and one day I showed him how to cook his favorite soup and revealed the secret ingredient; vinegar. Since then, he repeatedly asked for the vinegary soup, and I made it so many times. Last night, his request was again the vinegary soup. I normally make the soup with collard greens with apple cider vinegar (he likes it so much that he now even cares what type of vinegar I use!), almost like soupy southern style collared greens. But it's boring cooking the same thing all the time. It was the time for a change. So I made this Chinese style vinegar soup using dried mushrooms and dried bean cards.
You may have never used dried shiitake mushrooms and/or dried bean curds. They are easy to find at Asian grocery stores. You need to soak them in water or hot water to soften. Once they become soft, you can use it just like vegetables. Tori gara soup stock may be another mysterious ingredient for you. It is a Chinese style dried chicken stock made by Japanese manufactures, generally sold at Asian grocery stores. You can use it not only for soups but also stir fly sauces, and more. It is a very useful ingredient that I can't live with out it. If you have any questions about these ingredients, please leave a comment, and I'll try to answer your questions. By the way, I can't come up with the good name for this dish. If you have some ideas, let me know!