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Hot and Sour Soup - the real thing

I realized I never posted this recipe even though people asked for it ages ago!!
Here it is, my Hot & Sour Soup - you'll never go out again!

This is an adaptation of Grace Young's recipe from "Wisdom from a Chinese Kitchen"

Just remember you can add any protein you like in this soup - seafood, chicken, pork.... (I wouldn't do beef though.... ) The quantity Vinegar and white pepper is adjustable depending how hot and sour you like your soup.

Serve 4 as part of a multicourse meal

1/4 cup dried wun yee (Cloud ear mushrooms) *
1/4 cup lily buds *
1 quart Chicken Stock (Home Made taste better, but any avaliable is fine)
1 ounce pork butt, slivered
1 square extra firm tofu, rinsed and diced into 1/2 inch squares.
2 tbsp cornstarch (necessary evil)
2 tbsp Chinese Mature Vinegar * (For the Sour)
1/3 cup finely minced scallions
1 tsp ground white pepper (For the Hot)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 tsp sugar

*Avaliable in Asian Markets

1) Soak cloud ear and and lily buds in separate bowls for 30 minutes to soften in cold water.
Drain , remove hard spots from cloud ears and cut in half. Remove hard ends from lily buds and tie into knots.

2) Bring Chicken stock to boil over high heat. Add cloud ear, lily buds, tofu and pork and return to boil.

3) In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and vinegar. When the soup returns to rolling boil, stir cornstarch/vinegar slurry into the soup. Stir until soup is thickened.

4) Remove soup from heat, stir in scallions, white pepper, beaten egg and sugar. Serve pipping hot

Enjoy guys :)

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  1. Oh boy! I love me some hot and sour soup. Is the Chinese Mature Vinegar the same as black vinegar? If not, what might it be like?

    1 Reply
    1. Thanks for posting! Hot and Sour Soup is my favourite soup of all time. I too would like to know what Mature Vinegar is - I use a combination of red vinegar and black vinegar in my version. I also add bamboo shoots.

      1. Mature Vinegar is just an aged version of the Chinese Black Vinegar. I favor Donghu Brand - I find the flavor a little deeper and a little less acid then the non-aged vinegar.

        1. How bad a sin would it be to substitute Balsamic (also matured) vinegar do you think?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Joebob

            I think it would be too sweet and syrupy for the dish. If you don't have "Chinese mature vinegar," I'd probably use apple cider vinegar (or perhaps a combo of white vinegar with apple cider for a tarter taste). But I guess you never know unless you try. Who knows? It may be good. I had a great hot and sour soup at Swatow in Toronto which is not the hot and soup soup most people know in America -- much more tart than usual.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              The cheap balsamic I was thinking of using doesn't have the sweetness of the better quality balsamics. Maybe I'll try it and report back if it works.

          2. Does anyone know what Chinese restaurants are using to thicken soups and sauces that is, I'm pretty sure, not cornstarch? Their sauces becomes sticky/gummy when the sauce cools, unlike cornstarch which seems to turn watery again. (At least for me it does)

            12 Replies
            1. re: Lotti

              Corn starch. The cold sauce comes comes back to life when re-heated.

              1. re: Lotti

                Fushia Dunlop's books recommend Potato Starch. I"ve tried it and it works much better than cornstarch.

                1. re: OnkleWillie

                  Thank you. I'll try potato starch. Can you recommend any Chinese cookbooks with recipes that REALLY come out like Chinese restaurant food - not the Western style, but the kind that you can usually only order from the menu written in Chinese only - no English - and this in a country with laws about "bilingualism".

                  1. re: Lotti

                    I have to really recommend "Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen" by Grace Young, which is where I adapted this recipe from. As chinese myself, I find that not only are the recipe close to the real thing, but it's also a wonderfully written memoir about being Chinese in North American and what that means, and the cultural clashes we go through. I relate to this book deeply.
                    I actually buy this book for my "ABC" and "CBC" friends and cousins (and my brother and sister) when they get their first place, so they have at least the basics. Making rice ain't so easy when you have no idea how to do it!! :)

                    1. re: oracle347

                      Thanks for the book recommendation. We've been invited to a Chinese friend's for hot pot this Saturday. I will try to pick this up in SF's Chinatown and take to her. I should be able to figure this out but what are ABCs and CBCs?!?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        "ABC" means "American Born Chinese." I'm assuming "CBC" means "Chinese Born Chinese."

                        I also have Grace Young's Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen and love it dearly. I'd also like to recommend a book that I like better for a beginner as it's a lot more comprehensive and talks about techniques in further detail than Grace Young's book.


                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Ah. I guess I'm an ABNC (American Born Non-Chinese) and that might be the book for me. Thanks to you both.

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            :-D "CBC" is actually us Canadian Born Chinese. I'm glad the book rec helped!! Enjoy!!

                          2. re: oracle347

                            I fell in love with the Fuchsia Dunlop books (recently published): Revolutionary Chinese (recipes from Mao's home province, Hunan) and Land of Plenty (from Sichuan province). Although she's a Brit, she speaks fluent Mandarin, is very knowledgeable and has studied cooking in Sichuan.

                            There are numerous posts about the recipes, background, info on ingredients and where to find them all on the Cookbook of the Month. I think the month was March of 2008.

                          3. re: Lotti

                            Both of Fushia Dunlop’s books, Land of Plenty and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook have been that way for me. Even though I have only had them for a few weeks, everything I’ve tried had been restaurant quality. They are however Sichuan and Hunan specific.

                            The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen is also excellent.

                            1. re: OnkleWillie

                              land of plenty has a recipe for hot and sour soup. while i haven't made it yet, she mentions that her fellow student cooks were shocked by the amount of ground white pepper required to give this dish its heat, saying that this was "rather amusing, considering their vast capacity for chile eating."

                              side note: my land of plenty's fish fragrant pork slivers has kitchen stains all over it.

                        1. re: thew

                          I think the flavor of beef is a little to "beefy" for the soup, so as a personal preference I stick with white meats - chicken, pork, seafoods.

                          1. re: Jim Washburn

                            In hot and sour soup? I've never heard of this, not in my mom's that's for sure. Her recipe is similar to the OP's.

                            1. re: KTinNYC

                              I've seen and eaten versions that use some pig blood.

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                Hot and sour originated from N. China. There, it's not considered hot and sour without duck blood.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  I did not know that. Thanks for the educating me.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    I've found that China is so large and diversified that often times it's hard to find the "true" dish, as everyone says their different variations of the same dishes are the "true" variation.

                                    Considering the age of the civilization and the fact that when a lot of classic Chinese cuisine was created, people from one town or province couldn't get on the phone and call another to verify that the other is making the dish "correctly," I often find a lot of "authentic" variations and that the truth usually lies somewhere in the inbetween.


                                    Vagabond à la Carte : http://vagabondalacarte.wordpress.com

                              2. The mature vinegar is often called Chinkiang vinegar. Black vinegar is often sweetened so be careful. If you can't get Chinkiang use red vinegar, or in a pinch apple cider.

                                The above recipe is definitely very very close to the way hot and sour comes in good Chinese restaurants. Beware of any recipe that calls for chili paste instead of white pepper.

                                Here's a link about Chinkiang vinegar.


                                1. Thank you for sharing.

                                  It's always a pain to sift through the recipe off-shoots of a dish--especially a classic one--until you finally find something authentic.

                                  So again, thank you.


                                  Vagabond à la Carte : http://vagabondalacarte.wordpress.com

                                  1. I always use Chinkiang vinegar, black vinegar, regular soy sauce and black soy sauce. I've used black pepper in the past (like the batch I finished a few minutes ago), but will definitely try white pepper next time. But no coagulated duck blood, since I'm a four hour drive from any major Asian market that *might* sell it. FYI, I have an old Chinese cookbook that insists that water chestnut powder is a classic old school thickener for sauces, soups and such. I've tried it, but can testify that w. chestnut powder is very, very fussy and unpredictable. So I gave up and have used corn starch powder for the past twenty years or so.

                                    1. Whoever bumped this thread, thank you! Going on the list of soups to make soon!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: smtucker

                                        +1. We had it for lunch in a restaurant recently and I couldn't remember the last time I made it.

                                      2. I also like to add some toasted sesame oil, garlic chili sauce and chopped green onions to Hot and Sour soup.