Hot and Sour Soup
Hot and sour soup is a classic Chinese dish that can be made and enjoyed at home. Due to modern-day culinary liberties taken at restaurants, sometimes it’s best to follow a traditional recipe from the luxury of your own kitchen. You can make the famous soup using a pork broth, chicken broth or meat-free broth of your choice, adding in a decadent assortment of vegetables and surprising ingredients to spice up and smooth out the memorable flavor.
The Mysterious Flavor of Chinese Hot and Sour Soup
Hot and sour soups are made in a variety of blends, featuring an array of ingredients that make it challenging to pinpoint the exact list of what creates the exotic, savory balance of hot and sour. For these two opposing qualities, vinegar (for sour) and white pepper (for hot) are mostly responsible. Add in additional vegetables and spices, and the two key ingredients are quickly masked to make the soup the delicious mystery it’s been for a long time.
Make It on Your Own
Hot and sour broth is so simple to make at home, you might soon prefer this homemade version over restaurant outings. To get the best hot sour results, use the base of the recipe and take creative freedoms in added ingredients.
Make It Yours
Hot and sour soups vary according to taste based on where they’re cooked and by whom. A little too much or too little can quickly alter the soup’s character, which you can use to your advantage when cooking at home.
As you heat and finalize your soup, taste test and adjust to your liking. White pepper can go a long way with making the soup hotter and a dash (or more) of vinegar can boost the sour counterpart.
Before getting carried away with soup modifications, let’s look at an authentic recipe that you can use as a base for your dish.
How to Make Hot and Sour Soup
Making hot and sour soup is surprisingly simple, but it is a craft of such mastery that it will make you comfortable in the kitchen for a long time to come. The hot and sour soup combines a variety of ingredients to get its balanced flavors, so be sure to follow the recipe before adding, mixing and matching.
Hot and Sour Soup Recipe
This simple soup recipe is a traditional Chinese recipe and one that guests will gobble up. Follow along, making adjustments as you wish.
- Shiitake mushrooms: four ounces; dried, sliced and stemmed; feel free to use other types of mushrooms here, too
- Wood ear mushrooms: one-fourth cup; dried
- Lily flowers: one-fourth cup; dried
- Chicken or pork loin: thin strips
- Salt: one-fourth tsp
- Cornstarch: one-half tbsp.
- Ginger: one tbsp; minced
- Green onions: two, chopped
- Chinkiang (or white rice) vinegar: two tbsp.; here is where you get the sour; two tbsp.
- White pepper powder: here is where you get the hot flavor; start with one-half tsp and add as desired; you might find a teeter-totter rhythm between the vinegar and pepper
- Water (six cups) or chicken broth (six cups); see notes below for veggie version
- Eight cups of broth: beef, chicken or veggie
- Tofu: one and one-fourth oz.; look for an extra firm block of tofu so it does not dissolve in the soup; drain the tofu, press it and cut into cubes of about 1/2 inch
- Bamboo shoots: eight oz.; sliced
- Bok choy: one medium-size bunch; strip until only green parts are left, peel into thin strips
- Soy sauce: one tbsp.
- Cornstarch: three tbsp.
- Eggs: two; beaten
- Sesame oil: one tsp
- Scallions: six, sliced
- Cilantro: one-fourth cup, fresh and finely chopped
- Sesame seeds: toasted, one-fourth cup; you can top your dish with the seeds so use at your own discretion and feel free to skip if you prefer.
Prepare Like a Master
Preparation helps acquaint you with the ingredients you’re cooking within a dish and gives you the opportunity to learn how to modify your cooking with simple changes to chopping size, prep timing and spices added early on. Before getting started on cooking, prepare as much as you can ahead of time.
- Using tap water, clean and pat dry the shiitake mushroom, wood ear mushrooms and lily flowers
- Place all three in respective bowls with 1.5-2 cups of water
- Cut mushrooms into slices
- Remove lily flower ends
- Cut away the hard wood ear mushroom ends and chop into small pieces
- In a mixing bowl, add pork, wine, cornstarch and salt; mix and let sit for 15 minutes
- In a smaller mixing bowl, combine white pepper and vinegar; mix until pepper disappears
- In a pot over medium-high heat, combine chicken stock, green onion and ginger
- Add mushrooms and tofu
- Cooking to simmer
- Add soy sauce
- Return heat to low or medium
- In a small mixing bowl, combine cornstarch and one-fourth cup water; mix until cornstarch is liquefied
- Add cornstarch to soup (for thicker soup, add more cornstarch)
- Add pork and stir gently
- Add salt
- Add beaten egg; stir until egg is dispersed
- Remove pot or heat to add vinegar and pepper; mix well
- Add sesame oil, sesame seeds and cilantro on top
- Serve hot!
How to Make Your Hot Sour Soup Recipe Vegan
Serving hot and sour soups for vegetarian and vegan guests is no problem at all. You can make a delicious batch of vegetable soup for the whole group, or make a smaller side batch for select guests.
Use these substitutions for best results:
- Replace sirloin or chicken with added tofu or assorted mushrooms and additional vegetables
- Remove eggs and add cornstarch to achieve desired consistency
- Replace chicken broth with veggie broth or water
Keep the Base Simple
The most important instruction to remember when making hot and sour soup (with or without meat) is to keep the base minimal and consistent. As long as you maintain your white pepper, vinegar and white rice water, the assortment of vegetables you include only adds to the soup’s robust character and aroma. If you have a different stock of vegetables in your kitchen, use those instead. By keeping the broth’s composition, you can maintain the integrity of the soup’s flavor, regardless of the ingredients you add.
Add These Sides
If you’re serving hot and sour soup, consider making a small bite to serve alongside or after. There are a number of traditional bite-size snacks that pair well and are easy to make.
Check out our favorites below to compliment the perfect sour and sweet:
- Egg rolls
- Pad See Ew
- Crab Rangoon
- Egg Foo Young
Have Any Tips?
Let us know in the comments below if you have any insight to share on recipe variations, alternative ingredients, or dessert pairings. We love keeping our Asian Fusion culinary family up to speed on the best, oldest, newest and freshest recipe ideas.
Zhen Wei Feng
Zhen Wei Feng is a favorite dining destination for authentic Asian fusion cuisine. Whether you’re in the mood for hot and sour recipes or craving an eccentric night out with friends, be sure to plan an evening with our chefs and sample our menu’s most popular dishes. We look forward to seeing you soon.