This weekend I had the unique opportunity to watch a master at work. Susanna Foo is a well known chef in the Philadelphia area, not too far from my home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A friend invited me along to one of Susanna’s weekend cooking demonstrations.
The biggest problem: the menu. I looked it up online and my heart just sank. She was going to be featuring tofu. Yuck.
Regardless of my feelings â€“ and ignorance â€“ toward tofu, I went. I’m so glad I did. She used tofu in a number of dishes, all of which she prepared right there in front of us. The dish I thought stood above them all though was the popular Chinese Hot and Sour Soup. It had always intrigued me. I had just never been brave enough to order it in a restaurant.
Chef Foo started going through the ingredients: balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, ground white pepper (which is where the â€˜hotâ€™ part of the soup’s name comes into play), tofu, pork, ginger, tiger lily bud. Wait a second. So now I’m not only going to be eating tofu, but also the flower of a tiger lily? This was going to be a true adventure for my sheltered pallet.
She added the long list of ingredients one at a time, walking us through the process. About 30 minutes into the demonstration, it was time to put my taste buds to the test.
The waiter put the bowl in front of me and the pepper instantly hit my nose. I bravely put a spoon heaping with the beautiful light brown broth, shiitake mushrooms and, yes, tiger lily buds and tofu into my mouth. Wow. It was just incredible. The tofu had a very soft texture, not unlike the mushrooms and really just tasted like the rich, delicious broth. In fact, I’m not sure I would have even known it was tofu had I not seen her put it in the soup.
I purposely made sure I had a tiger lily bud in that first bite. I didn’t want any surprises in later spoonfuls. It, too, had a very interesting texture. It was firm and a little crunchy, but had a sweet taste to it. I could tell it was a flower, but it wasn’t gross to eat. It added a very nice touch to an already spectacular soup.
So to any of you in the Philadelphia area or to any of you planning a trip there, if you find yourself in the Philly suburb of Radnor, look up Susanna Foo’s Gourmet Kitchen and treat yourself. I promise, the tofu and the flowers don’t bite back.
Adrienne Garvey is the Assignment Manager for WGAL, the NBC affiliate in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In 2009, Adrienne graduated from Kutztown University with a Master of Science degree in Electronic Media. Adrienne has been married to her husband, Jerry, for 11 years. She has 2 children and says she loves writing food reviews—she adds, “I still hate onions and seafood, but I’m willing to try pretty much anything else.”