Warning: this recipe will ruin restaurant-made Hot and Sour Soup for you forever! Unlike what you get from your favorite takeout joint, this soup is filled with varying textures and subtle flavors that add a whole new dimension to the classic Chinese-American soup.
Can I use black pepper instead of white pepper?
No. White pepper is finely ground and is significantly more spicy than black pepper. Don’t do it. Don’t even try. White pepper is easy to get in an average grocery store spice section. A little bit goes a long way.
Where do I get these crazy ingredients?
Lily buds, dried shiitake mushrooms, and dried wood ear mushrooms are pretty uncommon items for the average grocery store. You might get lucky on the shiitakes, but lily buds are a tall order and are, unfortunately, absolutely critical to the flavor profile of this soup. I recommend looking in your local area for an Asian market that would specialize in these ingredients.
When you’re browsing through the dried mushrooms, you may be overwhelmed by the choices. If for some reason you don’t happen to see wood ear mushrooms, try looking for them under their other name: black fungus. They typically look liked fairly small, black, and squiggly. But don’t let their size fool you! Once they have been soaked, they can expand up to threefold!
Make it Vegan!
Converting this recipe for vegans is super easy! Simply use vegetable broth as your base and omit the step with the eggs. You don’t need the feathered eggs in Hot and Sour soup for it to be good.
Hot and Sour Soup Toppings
Keep it simple and fresh! If you’re looking to garnish your soup, go with either sliced green onions or cilantro. I know cilantro sounds life a weird chose, but it actually works very well and adds a hint of freshness to the soup.
- 2 quarts strong broth (vegetable or chicken)
- 13 lily buds
- 13 shiitake mushrooms
- 8 wood ear mushrooms (a.k.a. black fungus)
- 1 cup bamboo shoots
- 1/2 lb tofu
- 5 tbsp soy sauce
- 5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp chili oil (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp white pepper
- 2 eggs (optional)
- If you are using dried lily buds, shiitake, and wood ear mushrooms are dried, soak them in hot water for 15 minutes to soften before preparation.
- Prepare your vegetables. Trim off the hard ends of the lily buds and cut in half lengthwise. Slice all of the shiitake mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, tofu, and bamboo shoots into strips.
- In a large pot over medium heat, bring the water and vegetable bouillon to a boil. Add your lily buds, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots. Cook for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and sugar. Slowly mix in the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and chili oil (if using) to create a smooth slurry. Stir the slurry into the soup until it well mixed. Return to a boil and cook until the cornstarch begins to thicken.
- Add your tofu strips, white pepper, and salt to taste.
- You must taste the soup! You are aiming for a balance of pepper (the "hot") and vinegar (the "sour"). If it tastes flat but spicy, you need more rice wine vinegar. If it tastes sharp but bland, you need more white pepper. If it's appropriately hot and soup but seems like it's "missing something," try adding a pinch of sugar.
- Beat your eggs in a small bowl with a splash of water. Stir your soup in one direction for about a minute to create a vortex. Stop stirring. Slowly pour your eggs into the soup. Do not stir again for at least 2 minutes or your eggs will disintegrate into the soup!
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Making Hot and Sour Soup in a Tiny Kitchen
This is a pretty easy soup of make in a small kitchen. In total, it takes about an hour to make from start to finish. For dishes you’re looking at: a large pot, a knife, cutting board, a small bowl, a fork, some spoons, a ladle, and your serving bowls.
To save on a few dishes, I usually soak my dried lily buds, shiitake, and wood ear mushrooms in the same pot that I will use to cook the soup. If you’re unconcerned with pesticides, you can also use the soaking liquid as part of your broth. However, if you choose to do this, I recommend you be very certain about where you mushroom were sourced.
I also reuse my cornstarch mixing bowl for my eggs. It’s a small adjustment, but I’ve found that it not only helps clean the bowl but the eggs seem to hold together better in the soup. Maybe it’s my imagination.
Because the Hot and Sour soup doesn’t need to simmer for many hours, this is a great recipe for a small space because it won’t release too much steam into the air. Plus, if you’re hungry, it can often take less time to make it from scratch than to wait for delivery!
The only problem with this recipe is that once you get the hang of making it, it’ll ruin most restaurant-made Hot and Sour soups forever.