Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saffron Egg Drop Soup

What is this recipe doing here? you may ask. How does one arrive at a Chinese/Spanish fusion soup in the South? I think back happily to the times when, as a child, I would go out to lunch after church every Sunday with my family. Most weeks, we'd end up at a place called Nam King on Summer Avenue in East Memphis. My dad would order something like deep-fried chicken feet just to watch us all squirm, but I would always order egg drop soup.
I was fascinated by the airy texture of the egg, and I loved the crunchy fried noodles on the side; however, the thing I picture most is the color of the broth: such a deep yellow it almost seemed like a cartoon drawing of what this particular soup should look like. With this recipe, I wanted to recreate the color, and I did that by using saffron threads in the broth. I felt like I had committed to a Spanish flavor profile, so adding manchego and the sherry vinegar sealed the deal. I updated this traditional soup even more so by replacing the crunch of the fried noodles with diced vegetables.
Saffron Egg Drop Soup
(serves 4)
1 small red pepper (about 1/2 cup)
1 small purple onion (about 1/2 a cup)
1 green tomato (about 1/2 a cup)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley (chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
saffron broth (recipe follows)
3 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup shredded manchego cheese
salt and pepper (to taste)
Finely dice pepper, onion, and tomato and place into a mixing bowl. Finely chop parsley and add it to the mixture along with a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil, sherry vinegar, and sugar. Set this mixture aside; it is the garnish for the soup.
Bring the broth to a rolling boil. Add beaten eggs to the boiling broth -- one small spoonful at a time -- until all the beaten eggs are used. (The 'splintering' effect is really cool to watch!) To serve, spoon egg and broth mixture into a bowl, top with a spoonful of the vegetable mixture, and then grate a bit of the manchego on top.
Saffron Broth
1 1/2 quarts of vegetable stock (like Imagine No-Chicken Stock)
5 cloves of garlic (minced)
zest from one lemon
zest from one orange
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
sherry vinegar
Over medium-high heat, add the vegetable stock and garlic to the pot. Add the zest, water, saffron, and about a teaspoon of sherry vinegar. Simmer over medium heat until the broth has reduced by about 20 percent. Add black pepper and salt as needed.


  1. yes please, though we're cheese-less.

  2. OK! No cheese, no problem. I changed the recipe from a totally home made stock to an easier hybrid (box stock/ fresh ingredients) version. Should work out just fine. You'll be the first to make it.

  3. First, I'll say don't bother making this if you don't have Sherry Vinegar. Second, I'll say that we were out (I didn't realize that when I signed up) and no midtown grocery store carried it. I went to all of them. Despite lacking a key ingredient, I soldiered on, as the soup was a good complement to last night's supper. I bought Pacific brand veg. stock and immediately wished, even after the doctoring, that I'd made my own stock with shiitake stems, leeks, carrots, etc. This is a flavorless orange stock with quite a lot of sodium for very little punch. The finished soup was pretty, gorgeous, even, with the golden broth, egg threads, and vibrant veggie garnish, but (even with trying to sub for sherry vinegar,) it was bland. We didn't even eat half of it. I debated pitching it and making it again once I'd gone out east to get the SV, but I didn't want to use another 1/4 tsp of my home-grown saffron threads on one recipe.

    Fast forward to a text message from a friend at Whole Foods, Sherry Vinegar on its way. At lunch today, I added less than 1 tsp of SV to the remaining not-quite quart of the soup and it blossomed. It was hardly recognizable as the soup I'd served the night before.

    This is a visually stunning, simple but sophisticated recipe. I'm glad I made it, and I'm glad that I tasted it with and without the SV. Please emphasize that the SV is worth searching out.

  4. What a roller coaster! I'm so glad it worked in the end. You really had me worried there for a minute.

    Let's go back to something you breezed grow your own saffron. Tell me more.

  5. Saffron is a crocus that blooms in the fall- crocus sativus. You buy them in late summer, they send them in Sept, they bloom after Thanksgiving. All you need is full sun and well drained soil- like a huge pot or a raised bed. Brent and Becky's Bulbs tend to have the best prices- about 36/50 bulbs. You plant them pretty intensively, 10/sq foot, and they multiply over the years and will need to be divided if they stop blooming. Harvest in the morning by picking the flowers or snipping off/pulling out the saffron. I put mine in a small dish on a piece of cheesecloth on top of my toaster oven, then add them to an old saffron bottle I keep in the freezer. I had 30-40 blooms this year from my 2011 purchase of 50 bulbs, then we got a freeze before the rest bloomed. My older saffron "bed" needs to be dug and divided because they haven't bloomed in a year or two. Interesting to note that saffron is a traditional Amish ingredient b/c the PA Amish grew it so easily.

  6. That is so cool! There might be a story in there somewhere.

    Also, about the vegetable stock/ broth. I'm not a brand loyalty guy. Most things are best made from scratch, but I'm just not sure people will do that (most people). I'm attempting to make the recipes as unintimidating as possible. That said. I do like Imagine No-Chicken Broth. I guess that is worth noting because I feel the same way you do about the Pacific brand stuff. It's terrible. Sorry I didn't mention that earlier, but this is what recipe testing is all about.

  7. terrible and expensive. I would have been better off with kroger brand veg. stock! I think you're right about pre-made being more accessible.