This easy Chinese hot and sour soup is a classic dish. It is so simple to make with ingredients from the pantry making it spicy (hot) and tangy (sour) at the same time. You can find this soup on the menu of every Chinese restaurant. Make it at home and you can customize both the ingredients and spice level to your personal taste.
The Chinese translation of the name of this soup is “peppered vinegar soup.” It begins with a thickened broth, either chicken broth or vegetable broth if you want to make it vegetarian. Add a liberal dash of white pepper and chili sauce for the heat. Finish with vinegar (I like a mix of black vinegar and balsamic vinegar) for a more complex flavor to make it tangy.
Pantry Ingredients for Easy Chinese Hot and Sour Soup
Dried shiitake mushrooms: Found in most grocery stores (look around where the mushrooms are sold or in the Asian aisle. Reconstitute the dried mushrooms in a little warm water for 30 minutes. Squeeze out the water and strain the grit from the liquid. Chop the mushroom pieces into slices and all to the soup broth. If you can’t find dried shiitake mushrooms you can substitute fresh shiitake mushrooms or extra Cremini mushrooms.
Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms-Also called cloud ear mushrooms: These mushrooms give the soup a great texture and add some dark color. Look for them in Asian markets or order some online. Reconstitute in warm water, but I don’t use the soaking liquid in the soup.
Canned Bamboo Shoots: Easily found in the Asian aisle of the grocery store. Open the can and rinse the slices in warm water. Then cut the bamboo shoot slices into thin strands.
Black Vinegar: This vinegar is a great staple for your pantry. Black vinegar provides both tang and the elusive umami taste to the soup/ See this post to learn more.
Chili Sauce: Use either samba omelet or sriracha.
Toasted Sesame Seed Oil: The oil is a finishing oil, not more than you use to cook in. Intensely flavored, a little goes a long way, float some drops on the surface of the soup just before serving.
Cornstarch: The thickening power of cornstarch makes the broth glossy and adds just enough viscosity that the seasoned liquid coats all the other ingredients. This gives the easy Chinese hot and sour soup a great mouthfeel.
A Short Primer on Tofu
Most recipes call for cubes of tofu in the soup. I have to confess that I don’t care for tofu so I didn’t use any in the soup. That is one of the best things about making your own food—you can make it that way you like, no matter what the recipe says. Anyway, back to tofu—there are different types of tofu found in most grocery stores.
Firm Tofu: Bean curd blocks with water that can be cooked or added fresh in recipes. Make sure you press the water out of the block so the tofu can absorb the flavors of the recipe. You can freeze the tofu since when it thaws there are tiny pockets within the block that gives it a chewier texture
Silken Tofu: This tofu is sold in tubs and is perfect for whisking into drinks or other smooth dishes.Print
This easy Chinese hot and sour soup is a classic dish. It is so simple to make with ingredients from the pantry.
- .25 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (about 1/3 cup after rehydrating)
- .25 ounce dried wood ear mushrooms (about 1/3 cup after rehydrating)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced (about a 2” piece)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon black vinegar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chili sauce ( sambal oelek or sriracha)
- 2 teaspoons white pepper (or to taste)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 4 ounces pork loin or chicken breast, cut into thin slices
- 8 ounces firm tofu, drained, pressed and sliced into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 (8-ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed
- 4–5 fresh Cremini mushrooms, sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1 thai chili, sliced, to taste
- 3 green onions, sliced on bias, (about 1/3 cup)
- 2 tablespoons corn starch, mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- Rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms in warm water in separate containers.
- Squeeze out the liquid in shiitake mushrooms and strain the grit from the reserved liquid.
- Drain and press the tofu and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
- In a large dutch oven over medium heat, cook the broth, liquid from shitake mushrooms, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegars, chili sauce and brown sugar and simmer for five minutes.
- Add the slices of pork or chicken, tofu, bamboo shouts and reconstituted mushrooms and fresh mushrooms and let simmer for two more minutes.
- Stir the cornstarch slurry and cook until the soup thickens slightly.
- While the soup is simmering, slowly pour the eggs in a thin stream. Stir the soup with a chopstick to break up the cooked eggs so the pieces are like ribbons and floating on the top.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, adding a dash of black vinegar for more sour and chili sauce for more spice until you get your preferred balance of hot and sour.
- Sprinkle the white pepper, green pepper slices and Thai chili rings.
- Add drops of sesame oil to the surface of the soup and serve warm.
Keywords: can be vegetarian