Despite what everybody thinks, it does get chilly in Texas during the winter months. It is by no means freezing cold, but it’s still brisk enough that sometimes I want a dinner of hot soup at the end of the day. Last month, I was really craving a piping hot bowl of Hot and Sour soup. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to make it and I don’t trust online recipes when it comes to Chinese food. With low expectations set, I stopped by the token neighborhood Chinese take out store. Their Hot and Sour soup was gloppy (almost solid), mushy, and WAY too salty. Ugh, what a disappointment!

 

So, when Mom suggested that she teach me a few of my favorite Chinese dishes when she was in town, Hot and Sour soup was the first thing that came to mind. After all, when I think of this classic Chinese soup, it’s my parents’ version that I’m always dreaming of. Ready to do a little cooking? Since some of the ingredients are a little unfamiliar, I tried to document what they look like. The fully compiled recipe in list form is at the bottom of the page, if you feel like skipping all my pictures and commentary. (I do love to talk/write!)

 

In Hot and Sour Soup, you must have wood ears (Auricularia auricula-judae). It’s a type of mushroom/fungus that gives the soup a little bit of crunch. And to top it off, these little gems may turn out to be good for your health too! Though research is still ongoing, wood ears could potentially help lower bad cholesterol, reduce blood sugars, help reduce chance of blood clots, and have anti-tumor properties to boot! On top of the fact that they’re mighty tasty? I say, eat it and eat it often! 🙂

A tiny little box with a huge amount of delicious potential! Why does it have a tiger on the front? I have absolutely no idea. Chinese advertisements and marketing strategies still elude me.

Soak the dried wood ears in a bowl of water to hydrate for 10-20 minutes. It will look like a tangly black mess.

After 20 minutes, the wood ears should be hydrated and soft. Remove half a box from the water and shred thinly. (Dry the other half and refrigerate for another yummy dish, which I will post at a later date.)

You will need 1/3 to 1/2 a can of shredded bamboo shoots. We prefer the Wei-Chuan brand, it's reliably good when it comes to Chinese ingredients.

Next up, you’ll need a small handful of Shittake mushrooms. I think we used 3-4 medium sized mushrooms. But quantities in Chinese cooking tends to be a little iffy. If you’d like more mushrooms, then by all means, add more mushrooms! My parents have always used the dried variety, re-hydrating the mushrooms in a bowl of water for 20-30 minutes. But you can always use the fresh mushrooms if that’s your preference. In either case, make sure to shred them finely before cooking.

Lovely dried Shittake mushrooms, which you can find in any Asian grocery store.

The sour part of Hot and Sour soup comes from black vinegar. There are hundreds of different black vinegars, all with different uses. Sadly, I can’t tell what the vinegar is used for from the label alone. I have to smell the vinegar first. Which is why I take pictures of boxes, bottles, and packages. So, I can wander around the Asian grocery store trying to match my photos. Not entirely efficient, but works just the same!

The Chao Family loves their vinegar. And this one is perfect for our Hot and Sour soup!

And that’s it for the unfamiliar ingredients! We’re on our way to a delicious soup!

Me and Dad adding the finishing touches to our pot of Hot and Sour soup. It's fun learning and cooking with the parents!

Yum. My mouth is watering already! Hope you give this recipe a try. The ingredients may seem daunting, but I promise it's well worth the effort! And believe me when I say, you have no idea what you're missing until you try the homemade version!!

Hot and Sour Soup, Chao Style

*Makes a big 6 quart pot of soup (as you can see above)

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Shittake Mushrooms, shredded finely
  • 1/2 – 1/3 can of shredded bamboo shoots
  • 1-2 carrots, shredded finely
  • 1/2 a box of wood ears, shredded finely
  • 1 box of Medium Firm tofu, shredded finely (but not so finely that the tofu falls apart!)
  • 1/4 lb of finely shredded chicken or pork (marinated for 15 minutes to overnight in soy sauce, rice cooking wine, sugar, and corn starch)
  • 1 can of reduced sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3-4 spoonfuls of corn starch
  • 1/2 spoonful of plain boxed black pepper (NOT the freshly grated stuff)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of black vinegar
  • 1 scallion, sliced for topping

**Note: if using soy sauce, generally salt is not necessary. Though you can certainly use salt if you feel the soup needs it.

Procedure

  1. Boil approximately 8 cups of water + 1 can of chicken stock
  2. Carefully toss in the shredded Shittake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, wood ears, and tofu. Add the marinated meat in last and give everything a good stir.
  3. Once the liquid comes back to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer.
  4. Add the soy sauce.
  5. In a small prep bowl, mix the corn starch in a tiny amount of water until the corn starch is completely dissolved and smooth.
  6. Add 1/3 of the corn starch mixture at a time into the soup, checking for consistency before adding more of the corn starch mixture. You want the soup to be thick, not runny, but not gloppy either. We ended up using the whole mixture.
  7. Bring the soup back up to a boil.
  8. Add the black pepper. Be careful not to make the soup too spicy. 1/2 a spoonful packs quite a punch!
  9. In another prep bowl, beat the 2 eggs. While the soup is boiling, very very slowly drizzle the beaten eggs in the soup. You’re looking for an egg drop kind of pattern. If you go too fast, you’ll just get a giant blob of egg in the soup. And that’s not very nice looking, though probably still tasty.
  10. Turn off the heat, and then add the black vinegar at the very end.
  11. Serve nice and hot, topped with sliced scallions if you prefer. (I do not prefer) And Enjoy!

14 Comments

  1. Again….mmmmmm!!!! I think the next time you ask, ‘What can we bring?’ ….. I will know!!!!!

  2. Mmmmmm. This looks divine!

  3. This looks wonderful, Angela! Thanks for putting it on your blog.

  4. Can’t wait to try this! Keep the authentic Chinese recipes coming! 🙂

  5. Looks like the H&S soup from a Chinese restarant I frequent. I have never heard of black vinegar until now…which may explain why my last attempt to make hot and sour soup failed miserably! I can’t wait to try!

  6. Angela – when you say “1 can of reduced sodium chicken stock” Do you mean the 14 oz. can or the 46 ounce can? I’m thinking 2 cups (16 oz.) of chicken stock with 8 cups of water will suffice. But I want to make absolutely sure since I had to buy most of these ingredients at a specialty Asian market (we’re not very culturally diverse here in Nebraska).

  7. Oops! Guess I should have clarified the size of chicken broth/stock. I used a normal 14 oz can. #1 reason being that my parents were too stingy to put any additional chicken broth in the soup. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Taiwanese Beef Soup Noodles | Angela Explains it All

  9. Robert Brownell

    This looks great, and we all love H&S soup. You referenced “spoonfulls” in the recipe. How big is a spoonful? Tbs, tsp?

  10. Honestly, my dad just used a plain old spoon from my silverware set. My best guess? About a 1/2 tablespoon.

  11. Is the chicken/pork already cooked before marinating? And how much of each do you use for marinade?

  12. Where is the hot?

  13. This was wonderful and easy! I did not get the “sour” component I like but couldnt find your brand of black vinegar, so. Maybe next time.
    Thank you

  14. What are the amounts of ingredients for the pork marinade?

  15. I always add additional rice vinegar and shredded ginger to my hot and sour soup when dining in a restaurant. I like it sour and the Ginger adds a terrific complexity to the other flavors.

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