Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quick and Tasty Spicy Hot and Sour Soup

This is one of my favorite Chinese soups. There are many variations to this soup. We like ours on the spicy and sour side. We like the combination of these ingredients because it really reminds us of the soup we used to order at a local Chinese restaurant. The restaurant has long closed. So we set out to recreate the flavor and texture of our favorite Chinese soup and I think that we captured the essence of the soup. All of the ingredients are sure be available at your local Asian market and many might be available at your local supermarket.

You can also make this soup totally vegetarian, I will point out how to make it vegetarian as I go.

I always judge a Chinese restaurant based on its Hot and Sour Soup. If the soup is good, the rest of the meal is usually a real treat. The Szechuan restaurant where we used to have this soup also had outstanding Gong Pao Chicken, Szechuan Spicy Shrimp and Vegetarian Delight. I promise to make and publish all of those dishes too and you can have your own Chinese feast.

When we made the soup at home I ended up eating enough to make a meal out of it. I was also surprised to find that it microwaved just fine the next day for lunch. I took a little vinegar/sesame oil mixture and some fresh scallions to wake up the flavor after reheating. It made a great workday lunch. Satisfying, yet not too heavy.

  • 6 cups of chicken broth, substitute a vegetable broth for the vegetarian version.
  • 1 tbsp of garlic chili paste (use more if you like it really spicy)
  • 1/4 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of white wine or rice wine
  • 1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 2 tsp of minced ginger root
  • 3-4 minced green onions
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dried wood ears
  • 1/4 cup of day lilly buds (found in most Asian stores in with the dried mushrooms and wood ears)
  • 1/2 cup of dried black mushrooms, increase for vegetarian version.
  • 1/2 cup of chopped bamboo shoots
  • 6 oz of firm tofu, increase to 10 oz for the vegetarian version.
  • 6 oz of lean pork, omit for vegetarian version.
  • 2 tsp of soy sauce
  • 1 tsp of sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp of cornstarch or tapioca starch
  • 1 egg (optional)


  1. For the vegetarian version skip steps 2, 3, and 13. I know it's obvious, but just want to be clear.
  2. Chop the pork into long thin strips about 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Marinade the pork in the 2 teaspoon of soy and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Set aside.
  4. Rinse the mushrooms, wood ears and lilly buds under cold water.
  5. Heat the chicken broth on low and keep it on a low simmer. Using about 1 cup of the warm broth, soak the wood ears and mushrooms together. If they soak up all the liquid, just add a little more broth.
  6. Using about 1/2 cup of the warm broth, soak the lilly buds. Add a little more broth if necessary.
  7. Cut the tofu into strips about 1/4 inch thick.
  8. To prepare the flavoring, combine the vinegar, wine, sesame oil, chili paste, soy sauce and the minced ginger together.
  9. When the mushrooms are soft drain them and the wood ears. Reserve the liquid.
  10. Drain the lilly buds and reserve the liquid.
  11. Cut the mushrooms into thin strips.
  12. Turn the heat up and when the broth begins to simmer again, add the flavoring. Mix thoroughly in.
  13. Wait until the flavored broth starts to simmer again, carefully add the pork and mix it into the broth.
  14. Let the meat cook for about 5 minutes.
  15. Once the broth starts to simmer again, add the mushrooms and wood ears.
  16. Add the lilly buds and the bamboo shoots. Allow the broth to come back up to a simmer.
  17. Add the tofu and continue to simmer the soup.
  18. Add the reserved liquid from the lilly buds.
  19. To the reserved liquid of the mushrooms add the cornstarch and thoroughly wisk into the liquid.
  20. Add to the soup and thoroughly mix it in.
  21. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes this will allow for all the different flavors to blend together and soak into the goodies.
  22. This is totally optional, whisk the egg with about one teaspoon of water and slowly swirl the mixture into the soup. Gently mix the egg into the soup. I haven't added the egg to my soup for quite sometime and I find that I don't really miss it.
  23. Add 1/2 of the minced green onion and stir it into the soup.
  24. Plate the soup and garnish the top with a handful of minced green onion.
  25. For a totally vegetarian version of the soup, just increase the amount of tofu and dried mushrooms, and of course omit the pork.

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