Have you made your own hot and sour soup?
I’ve been a long time fan of this spicy/sour concoction but had never attempted a version at home. There is a very distinct taste to quality restaurant style hot & sour soup that I suspected wouldn’t be easy to replicate at home (and who wants to do all that work just for a big fat flop). Even as a relatively comfortable cook, some preparations just seem out of reach.
This soup surprised me. Not only in terms of its simplicity and versatility — you can get to similar ends through different means — but also, maybe more unexpectedly, how much fun it was! (the egg method is so cool).
I did make some ingredient substitutions to suit our taste that differ from the more traditional Chinese recipe but are very much in line with your standard North Americanized version of the soup, if not more authentic. The result is an approachable recipe, with easily accessed ingredients and great flavor reminiscent of the real deal!
A complex tasting broth with tofu, shiitake and bamboo shoots offering great texture and that irresistible combination of hot and sour flavor (in no small part thanks to the Chinese vinegar). Very straightforward too. No heartache, I promise.
Traditional Chinese hot & sour soup is meat-based (typically pork), however this particular version does not contain meat (but feel free to make it your own). I’ve also opted to skip the cornstarch preferring to let the stock reduce a little (I don’t miss the starch here). I garnished with some sliced fresh red chiles (not particularly spicy) and some chopped fresh cilantro – all optional. This soup really stands on its own merit, no need to embellish unless you want to.
I was going to put this one on our Christmas menu for Réveillon but I’ve made it so many times this past month, it certainly wouldn’t be a novelty anymore. Oops.
Hope you love it as much as we do!
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed salted and minced
- 2 heaping tsp chili garlic sauce
- 1 generous knob of ginger, peeled and grated (should be at least 1 Tbsp)
- 250 g (just over 8 oz) shiitake mushrooms, gently washed and sliced thin (I keep most of the stem, discarding only the very tip).
- A few cracks of fresh white pepper (or black)
- 1 225 g (8 oz wet) can bamboo shoots, drained
- 4 Tbsp soy sauce (GF as necessary)
- 3 Tbsp Chinkiang vinegar (Chinese black vinegar - See Notes)
- 2-4 tsp honey, or sweetener of choice
- 1.5 litres (about 7 cups) broth of choice (I typically use chicken)
- 150 g (about 7 oz) firm tofu, cut into small bite sized cubes
- 2 large eggs, whisked and placed in a small pouring bowl
- 1 bunch green onions, diced
- Optional garnish: sliced fresh red chiles, chopped fresh herbs, additional green onions, etc.
- In a large saucepan or wok set to medium heat, sauté sliced mushrooms in some olive oil until most of the moisture has dissipated and the shrooms are lightly golden (about 5 minutes). Lower heat and add chilli paste and garlic giving it a stir before adding the bamboo shoots - toss for another minute to integrate.
- Meanwhile, whisk together: soy sauce, vinegar, honey, ginger and pepper. Add this mixture to pan (making sure to scoop out full contents including the honey) and stir to combine.
- Add broth and bring to a gentle boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until slightly reduced.
- Whisk the eggs and place in a container with a spout for pouring.
- Once broth has reduced somewhat, remove the soup from heat and - get ready, this is the fun part! - using a chopstick (or whisk), stir the soup in a clockwise direction until you get a little whirlpool, then slowly pour the beaten eggs with your other hand while continuing to stir - you will see magical egg ribbons appear before your eyes (I got a kick out of it anyway). Add the tofu and a handful of green onions. Taste the soup making any seasoning adjustments desired (example: soy, vinegar, salt, honey) then return to heat just to warm through. Serve immediately with another sprinkling of green onions and any desired garnish.
The Mushrooms: wood ear mushrooms are the traditional choice in Chinese hot & sour soup - if you have access to them, by all means experiment. I don't think you will be disappointed with shiitake however, they have that wonderful chewy resilient texture and umami flavor that is positively delightful in this recipe.
The Broth: if you have a homemade broth (whatever version you enjoy) it would be an ideal time to use it in this recipe. Otherwise, a broth you typically use is fine.