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Oct 5, 2000 10:20 AM

Hot and Sour Soup Question

  • z

I seem to remember reading somewhere that "the best" Hot and Sour soup could be had at Kam Chueh on The Bowery. I tried it and have to say it was bizarrely sweet for my taste. Now my question is: have I not had "true" H & S soup before? Should it be so sweet? Is it simply a matter of personal taste? Maybe a Chinese food expert can help me out. Thanks.

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  1. j
    jonathan sibley

    I'm not 100% sure, but I thought Hot & Sour Soup was Sichuan, so the best place to try it would be a Sichuan restaurant such as Wu Liang Ye or Grand Sichuan International. I haven't tried it at those restaurants, so I can't say for sure whether it is good there or not, but that is where I would try it.

    It also remember having Sichuanese food in Hong Kong that was sweetened to Cantonese taste, which might explain your experience, as well.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jonathan sibley
      Jason "Jia La" Perlow

      Hot and sour soup is definitely sichuan, so its going to be open to a lot of cantonese interpretation in NY chinatown unless its explicitly a sichuan restaurant.

      This is not to say I havent had good H&S at a Cantonese place, or even a Hunan or Taiwanese place (actually, most Hunan H&S I've had has been even HOTTER and more vinegary than sichuan I have had) but most of the cantonese places i've had it at has been gloppier and sweeter than at a real Sichuan restaurant.

      Its gotta have lots of spots of chiles floating in it, it shouldnt be gloppy, and its gotta be vinegary.

      When its good, its good, and when its bad, its bad.

      Personally, my favorite variation is Tom Yum Goong, the Thai interpretation. Order that sucker bangkok style and I am in capiscum endorphin heaven.

      1. re: Jason "Jia La" Perlow

        My particular soup was not gloppy, which I found favorable. The color was more orange than I had ever seen and the sweetness was almost off-putting. Maybe I should try a Sichuan place. I forget the gist of the thread where I saw this opinion of Kam Chueh. It is a fairly uninteresting looking place as far as Chinatown goes. They were exceptionally friendly - even insisting on delivering the (take-out) soup to me while I waited in my double parked car. Try asking for THAT at Noodletown!!

        1. re: Jason "Jia La" Perlow
          jonathan sibley

          Jason, have you tried the hot&sour soup at Cathay 22 on rte 22 West (Springfield, NJ)?

          I haven't but I have tried a number of their other dishes. I spoke to a waiter there this week, and he said that a number of Chinese order it.

          They bring in their chefs from China, and if they decide that you are serious (ie, not looking for pseudo-sichuan food), you can get some good food. The chicken with 3 peppers (might only be on the untranslated Chinese menu) is somewhat spicy (it has somewhat hot green peppers, as well as the very hot dried peppers), but I was told that the water-cooked (braised) beef is much spicier. The spicy dumplings were good, as was the smoked duck.

          I'm sure it all depends if they decide to tone it down, but I have been lucky (and flash my annotated version of the Chinese menu, just in case).

          1. re: jonathan sibley
            Jason "Kwai Tse" Perlow

            Hmmm... sounds really good. Maybe we'll join you there sometime?


      2. m
        Melanie Wong

        If you haven't had it with pig blood, you haven't had hot and sour soup.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Good God, Melanie! Really?

          1. re: Zephyr

            Yup. Blood. Joe's Shanghai used to do their soup with slivers of coagulated blood cake (or maybe it was duck's blood? Melanie, help me out on this one). Probably still do. That was the only dish they made that I really liked. It's not that weird. Just think of how many times you snatched bits of yummy browned dripping from the bottom of a roast pan. That's blood and other stuff, too. Besides, isn't there a game sauce or two in the French canon that's thickened with blood?

            1. re: Maria Eng
              Martha Gehan

              Yes, lievre (hare) a la royale. Never made it, but it requires a freshly killed hare (otherwise the blood coagulates too much and can't be used to make the sauce).

              1. re: Maria Eng
                Melanie Wong

                I've not had H&S in this country with pig's blood. But I tend to stay away from H&S soup in general. Each time it part of a meal in Hong Kong or Taiwan, it had the blood. It just was part of the regular deal, I don't think it was ordered especially that way. Could have been duck's blood although I specifically remember asking the words in Cantonese for pig's blood to my local host, not wanting to upset the Caucasians with us who declared on each occsion that it was the finest H&S they'd ever tasted. We would then explain that the proteinaceous blobs were either "special mushrooms" or "one of a 1000 kinds of Taiwanese dofu".

            2. re: Melanie Wong
              Martha Gehan

              A friend who is 3/4 Chinese, grew up in Hong Kong, went to cooking school in Japan and is a fabulous cook once served hot & sour soup drizzled with duck blood. It was delicious, but I can't say I've ever seen it on a menu--but perhaps that's because I can't read Chinese?

            3. "I seem to remember reading somewhere that "the best" Hot and Sour soup could be had at Kam Chueh on The Bowery."

              Actually, 'twas me, Zephyr (gosh, I feel important!). It is sensational soup, but it is EXTREMELY strange and non-standard. The Captain Beefhart of sweet 'n sour soup.

              Unless they've changed the recipe (I haven't had it in over a year), it's just as hot as it is sweet, and there's a lot of sourness and other flavors going on in there. Slightly unfair to call it simply "sweet", though I know what you mean. It took me a few tries to get into it, but it has for many years been an important part of my life. But it is DEFINITELY an acquired taste.

              Love to know which Sichuan place you're referring to later in the thread. Love to know about friendly service in Chinatown...the standard glum guys bum me out (hmmm...Glum Guy Bum...isn't that a dim sum dish?)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Jim Leff

                My favorite chinese soup was a variant of hot and sour soup. We called it "Thick Bean Curd Soup" (never knew the chinese name for it). It contained broken up bits of soft tofu in a very thick broth. It was redolent of sesame oil and unctuous (and, oh so delicious).

                Alas, it was found at the now long gone Say Eng Look restaurant in Chinatown.

                1. re: Jim Leff
                  Rachel Perlow

                  "Glum Guy Bum...isn't that a dim sum dish?"


                  Seriously, I know what you mean ... The service and attitude is always so much better when we go with our asian friends (he Korean-American, she Chinese from China, now married to each other). It's always an interesting transition. First, they're surprised we're a party of four, not two of two. Then they're surprised when she starts speaking Mandarin to them. But then they tell us (or rather her, cause they'll speak in Chinese back to her) what's good and, more important, not good/fresh that day.