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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and sour soup is a mainstay of Americanized Chinese restaurants that seem to hawk Mandarin or Szechwan/Szechuan (these days spelled Sichuan) cuisine. It's often given as a freebie with your meal. I love its sour tang. The "hot" part comes from white pepper, or in some cases, chili pepper, and the "sour" part comes from Chinese black vinegar.

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup 1

Prepared at home, you can splurge on earthy shiitake mushrooms and crunchy lily buds and bamboo shoots. It's a quick easy soup that satisfies my sour tastebuds and love of textures. It's also great for when I was feeling under the weather.  

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup 

For a 2-quart pot:
1/2 cup of minced or thinly sliced shrimp, chicken, or pork
6 shiitake mushrooms, soaked, stems removed, and sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup Tree Ear Fungus, soaked
1/4 cup lily buds, soaked and strands separated
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, cut into strips
1/2 package of tofu, sliced into strips
2 eggs
1 tblsp corn starch
About 2 tblsp soy sauce
About 1/2 cup Chinese black vinegar (or substitute with rice vinegar or red wine vinegar)
About 2 tblsp rice vinegar
About 2 tsp sesame oil
About 1 tsp ground white pepper (or substitute with ground black pepper or chili pepper)

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup 2

Shiitake mushrooms, tree ear fungus, and lily buds need to be soaked for at least 20 minutes to be rehydrated. You can speed up the process by soaking them in boiling water. Don't worry if they're not completely softened, a little time in the soup pot will take care of that.

Fill your pot about halfway with water and set it to boil.

Peel shrimp and toss the shells into the water to flavor the broth.

If you're using chicken or pork, slice them first, and saute the meat in a small drizzle of sesame oil in the pot until almost cooked and then add water. You can omit meat entirely if you're vegetarian as the vinegar and soy sauce will give the soup plenty of flavoring. Now go about mincing and slicing. You can buy many of the ingredients pre-sliced for ease.

From the top middle and going clockwise: tofu, tree ear fungus, bamboo shoots, shrimp, lily buds, and shiitake mushrooms.

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup 3

When the water has boiled, scoop out the shrimp shells and add in all the ingredients you've just minced and sliced. Add more water to the pot if the ingredients make the soup too dense.

Beat two eggs in a bowl and slowly pour eggs into the pot, stirring all the while to create rivulets of "egg drops." Do this before adding in the vinegar or the egg won't form rivulets and will just turn the broth murky.

Turn heat down to medium-low to let the soup simmer. Dissolve 1 tblsp of cornstarch to a bit of cold water and add that to the pot to thicken the soup. Add just a drizzle of sesame oil. Then start adding in various amounts of soy sauce, vinegar, and pepper to your taste. Chinese black vinegar is milder than other varieties but doesn't have a harsh aftertaste.

Allow the soup to simmer for about 10 minutes so the flavors can meld before you taste it again and decide to add in more seasoning. I ended up using roughly 1/2 cup of Chinese black vinegar and a few tblsp of rice vinegar, and several tblsps of soy sauce. It seems like a lot of vinegar, but this is actually the norm to achieve the right degree of sourness for this soup. As for the white pepper, you want to just be able to taste it, but don't actually want it to be spicy. As always, adjust according to your tastes.

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup 1


Who made my recipe for Chinese hot and sour soup?
Lisa of U-Handbag said, "...works a treat. Yum!"


  1. Wow, you used lily buds...that's truly authentic! The flavor does make the hot and sour soup better. My mother used them to cook some sort of Malaysian version of Buddha Delight...

    1. Haven't tried this yet but looks amazing. Trying to find a recipe similar to the hot and sour soup I got at Golden Dragon 10+ years ago that got me thru some pretty bad chemo days, when this was all I could tolerate.

  2. OMG that looks sooooo good right now!!!!!

  3. RM,
    I love munching on lily buds and put in lots! My mom ties them into knots and adds them to bean thread vermicelli with dried shrimp and tree ear fungus.

    Hot and sour soup is great for when I'm feeling under the weather. I think it's all that vinegar.

  4. hey WC, this looks great - I love soups but have mostly made only Cantonese soups, I think I will give this recipe a try! I love sour stuff too..

  5. ToH,
    I hope you make it. It's really quite easy.


  6. This is one of my favorite soups! It totally awakens the taste buds.

    Where do they give it for free with the meals? :) I'm willing to travel.

  7. Thanks for this recipe! It gave me an excuse to use all kinds of things I'd never heard of before. Definitely going to make it again sometime.

  8. Olga,
    They give it away at quite a few Chinese restaurants in SoCal. :)

    It's a great chance to wander the aisles of an Asian grocery store and experiment with ingredients.


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