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October 2016

The Chile Pepper Bible by Judith Finlayson: Review and Recipe - Chinese Hot-and-Sour Mushroom Soup

Cookbooks are my absolute favorite type of book.  I love learning how to mix different ingredients together to make a completely different taste.  Finding and using a good recipe reminds me of that animated movie with the little foodie rat that puts a mushroom with a piece of cheese and smokes it over a chimney fire.  After getting struck by lightning, he experiences a fiery taste explosion he likes to call "lightningy".    

Speaking of fiery taste explosions... 

 ...and getting back to my original thought, I was so pleased when given the opportunity to review Judith Finlayson's newest cookbook the Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet & Mild to Fiery & Everything in Between. (I received this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.)


Photo courtesy of The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet & Mild to Fiery & Everything in Between by Judith Finlayson © 2016 Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Chile peppers have a BIG part in so many different recipes and are found in about 3/4 of everything I cook.  But to be completely honest, I had no idea how many different types there are.  Until reading the Chile Pepper Bible, I thought a chile was a chile was a chile.  Turns out there are 5 major chile species with many different types in each ranging from sweet to hot to set-your-mouth-on-fire and beyond.  

The beautiful cookbook contains so much interesting information about chiles and the culture surrounding them.  Did you know that it is believed that capsicum (the genus of  chile peppers) may have been the first spice ever used by humans? Or that the Indian pepper, the bhut jolokia was dethroned as the Hottest Pepper in the World per Guinness World Records leaving the title to be reclaimed by the Carolina Reaper?  

Of course, the Chile Pepper Bible's crown jewels are its recipes.  With 250 recipes to choose from, you can plan a whole chile pepper party if you want!  

Little story for you:

Last week when picking up my CSA share from the farm, I noticed a small basket of red finger-like peppers on the counter.  I asked what they were and my friend farmer Jen told me they were some sort of Thai pepper that one of her farm sharers was growing.  She offered me a couple, so I took them.  Coincidentally, on the same day my Chile Pepper Bible showed up in the mail.  I couldn't believe it!  I was able to look up the pepper and correctly identify it as a Thai bird's-eye chile! 


So then I flipped to page 108 and found a recipe for Chinese Hot-and-Sour Mushroom Soup for which I could use my new little bird's-eye friend!  Here's the recipe and an excerpt from the book in case you'd like to try it yourself.

Chinese Hot-and-Sour Mushroom Soup


Photo and Recipe courtesy of The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet & Mild to Fiery & Everything in Between by Judith Finlayson © 2016 Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

 In Chinese medicine, which is fundamentally based on the balancing principles of yin and yang, heating foods are those that warm the body, feeding it with energy. Balance, which includes establishing equilibrium among the five flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami), helps the body’s vital spirit, called qi, to flow freely and support excellent health. Need I say more? Hot, sour, salty, sweet and loaded with umami from the soy sauce and mushrooms, which are also known to strengthen the immune system, this soup has all the makings of a restorative tonic. And it tastes good, too!

  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Boiling water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced gingerroot
  • 8 oz  trimmed fresh shiitake mushrooms,sliced
  • 1  red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1⁄2 to 1 red finger chile, cut into paper-thin rings
  • 4 cups   mushroom or beef stock
  • 1⁄4 cup  soy sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup  Chinese black rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp thinly sliced green onions (white and green parts)

 In a heatproof bowl, soak dried mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes, weighing down with a cup to ensure they remain submerged. Drain and discard liquid. Slice mushrooms thinly and set aside.

In a large saucepan or stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add soaked dried mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, bell pepper, and finger chile to taste. Cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 5 minutes. (Mushrooms shouldn’t be fully cooked at this point.)

Add stock, soy sauce and vinegar and stir well. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for until flavors are infused, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.

Ladle into warm serving bowls. Garnish with green onions. Serve immediately.

 Makes 4 servings. Vegan Friendly. Gluten-Free Friendly

 Tip: Be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce or wheat-free tamari if you are making this soup for someone who is sensitive to gluten. To make it Whole30 compliant, substitute the soy with coconut aminos.

 Chile Savvy: Bitterness is an important flavor in this soup. The sweet red bell pepper balances that component, adding lovely complexity.

Chiles have so many great health benefits and are great in so many different diets.  I am a big fan of the Whole30 way of eating and this Chile Pepper Bible has a lot of compliant (or easily adjustable) recipes I plan on adding to my rotation.  Chiles help bring flavor and color to otherwise boring meals.  

For your own copy, you can use my affiliate link here and purchase from Amazon or you can purchase it at your favorite book store.  With the holidays right around the corner, why not grab a copy for your chile loving friends, too?  

 Follow author Judith Finlyason on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest @judith.finlayson to find out more about the Chile Pepper Bible and her other awesome cookbooks!