hot and sour

hot and sour soup

We recently made hot and sour soup for the first time, and I can’t imagine why I waited this long. It was prompted by the annual advent of scallion-chive flatbreads, since the chives are shooting up in the garden and we happened to have a bag of cilantro in the fridge, and nothing goes better with these breads than soup. We just picked up a used copy of The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young, and I pulled this recipe out more or less at random. It looked simple and fast, useful features when you’re also making involved flatbreads.

I followed it pretty closely, while leaving out the lily buds, adding a bit of extra pork, and using the pre-shredded black fungus that we’ve become addicted to instead of whole cloud ears. The soup is heated with white pepper and soured with cider vinegar, and the main complaints we had were the lack of salt (fixed with a dab of soy sauce after serving) and the dullness of the vinegar flavor, apparently due to adding it early in the cooking process. When we ate the leftovers I added a bit of fresh vinegar and it was much peppier. But other than that it was really good – soothing and very textural, and the breads (which I made with hot chile oil and plenty of salt) were fantastic dipped into it.

scallion-chive bread

I think we’ll try a variation on the recipe soon – maybe Barbara Tropp’s version which uses rice vinegar and soy. Does anyone have a recipe for hot and sour soup they really like? I think this could become part of our regular rotation.

hot and sour soup

Hot and Sour Soup

Adapted from The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young. Serves four.

  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dried black fungus
  • 1 block silken tofu, cut into cubes
  • 6 ounces pork (or less), sliced thinly
  • 1 small can slivered bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced thinly
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper

Soak the fungus in cold water for half an hour or until softened. Drain.

Stir together the cornstarch and vinegar in a small bowl with one tablespoon of water.

 Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan.

When the broth is boiling, add the fungus, tofu, pork, and bamboo shoots, and bring back to a boil. Add the cornstarch mixture and continue to cook at a boil, stirring, until the soup thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the beaten egg, scallions, sugar and pepper. I would also add another splash of cider vinegar at this point, to taste.

Ladle into bowls and serve with soy sauce and hot sauce, with flatbreads or buns. Also good ladled over leftover rice.

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5 thoughts on “hot and sour

    1. From what I’ve read, they’re a very common Chinese ingredient, but they mostly add texture rather than taste. Haven’t tried them yet myself. The book says they can be found under the names lily buds, lily stems, golden needles or tiger lily buds. They’re supposed to be soaked, then tied in a knot before cooking.

  1. My favorite hot and sour recipe is from my ancient, falling-apart copy of Irene Ko’s ‘The Key to Chinese Cooking’ whichm is apparently long out of print and even similarly ancient paperbacks can be priced at $159 dollars, when available at sites like Alibris and ABE books. If you EVER see this book, snatch it up at any price!!

    If I ever move out of my current, seemingly permanent state of lassitude, I might write it out. . . The lily buds are crucial BTW.

    1. I will keep an eye out for that book, thanks! Would love to see the recipe if you get around to typing it up.

      Lily buds are worth it, hey? I’ll pick some up next time we’re at the Asian grocery and try it. Feels like we’re getting back into soup weather.

    2. The best ever Chinese cookbook! I had no idea how rare it had become until I looked online to replace my ancient copy which is basically a lot of loose pages tucked inside a detached cover! I cannot believe they have not republished this book, and it does have the best hot and sour recipe which I’ve been making for years. Definitely agree that the golden needles are critical, and so beautiful too, though I haven’t heard of tying them in a knot before. . .

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