Years ago, when I was traveling non-stop for a Large Corporation, I would land back in Atlanta on Friday nights and leave again that Sunday. So really, I had 36 hours to wash clothes, pay bills, and call my mother before I left town again.
Since there was no point in grocery shopping - how weird it feels to write that! - I used to call my favorite Chinese restaurant when I was driving home from the airport. It got to the point that I could call to place my order and say "Hi! It's me. The usual. Twenty minutes."
There's a lot to be said for getting to know the owner of a great restaurant. She has told us about her childhood in China, her loser son who seemed to think he needed to move to New York, her son's girlfriend That Girl, etc.
One night Sweetie met some friends there - I was sick and whiny and snarfle-y and stayed home - and the owner pounced immediately, demanding to know why Sweetie was in female company (said female's husband was also at the table, but whatever. I appreciate the assist from the sisterhood.).
When she found out I was sick she packaged up a giant container of my beloved hot & sour soup, the panacea for whatever could possibly be wrong.
This is a good approximation that's terrific for fighting a cold, or just enjoying as a first course.
Hot & Sour Soup
3 oz. boneless pork, cut in strips (or use cooked chicken, or skip the meat entirely)
2 oz. bean thread noodle (replace with rice for a more filling meal)
2 small eggs
1 quart chicken stock
A few twists of the pepper grinder - this is where the "hot" comes in
2 TBSP scallions, chopped
3/4 oz. dried black mushrooms (I use fresh shiitake or oyster and saute them a minute)
8 oz. tofu, cut small (optional)
2 tsp. sesame oil
3 TBSP rice wine vinegar - this is the "sour" of the soup
2 TBSP soy sauce (low-sodium is fine)
Blanch pork in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside. Soak mushrooms in warm water (different warm water) for 20 minutes, drain, remove stems, and cut caps into thin strips. Soak bean thread noodles in warm water (yet a different batch of warm water) 4 - 5 minutes.
Whisk egg with 1 tsp sesame oil in a small dish.
Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add pork, mushrooms, bean thread, tofu, vinegar, pepper, and soy sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.
SLOWLY pour egg mixture into soup, through a fork, to get strands. Add scallions and 1 tsp sesame oil. Stir and serve.