A trip to Boston last winter opened my eyes to soup. It was a windy, frigid night with several inches of snow on the ground. We were hungry and wanted something to warm up. We found a sushi and ramen restaurant the was packed, and had a 45 minute wait – so you know it had to be good. Luckily we were able to grab two seats at the bar and order from the full menu. The first thing I noticed on the menu was Mala soup, a spicy but flavorful broth with veggies and chicken thrown in. I’ve never had such good broth in my life, so I made it my mission to recreate it. I found a few recipes but most of them used hard-to-find ingredients, so I improvised using the #1 hot sauce in the world – Sriracha. Several recipes also called for peanut oil – which sparked another idea. If you like spicy foods, you have to make this. It’s a wonderfully satisfying soup.
1. Using scissors, cut the dried chilies into 1/2-inch long pieces. Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat with 1 Tbsp oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chilies. Fry the chilies, stirring frequently until they darken, but don’t let them burn. Once they are done, remove the chilies and place aside. Let the pot cool a little bit.
2. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp oil to the pot over medium heat and add the sriracha. Stir frequently, until the oil turns red and the sauce begins to get a little “dry”. Then add the ginger, stirring for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Then add the chicken broth, peanut butter, rice vinegar, sugar and cooked chilies back to the pot. Stir and taste, adding salt as necessary.
3. Once the broth comes to a boil add the chicken (if raw) for 5 minutes by itself, followed by the mushrooms, cabbage, bean sprouts, scallions and chicken (if cooked) and cook for 15-20 minutes, until everything is tender.