If you think prefixing hot and sour soup with Chinese is unnecessary for being too obvious, I assure you it’s not. There are similarly flavored soups in Japan, in various countries in Southeast Asia, and in India and Pakistan in South Asia.
So, just to be clear, this is a recipe for Chinese hot and sour soup. What makes it Chinese? The ingredients and cooking method. I’m not going to say though that it is THE traditional Chinese hot and soup soup because even China, there are variants of the soup. Although meat is almost always present, the choice of vegetables vary.
What makes it hot?
Some recipes say it’s white pepper. I prefer chilies. So, yes, “hot” means spicy hot.
What makes it sour?
Vinegar. Again, there are variations. Some combine white vinegar with soy sauce to give the broth its distinctive dark color. I belong to the black vinegar team. Admittedly a bit harder to source than white vinegar, Chinese black vinegar has a unique taste that makes it the ideal souring agent for this soup.
Chinese Hot and Sour SoupRecipe by
- 250 grams pork shoulder with a generous amount of fat!
- 6 to 8 fresh shiitake
- ¼ cup dried black fungus soaked in warm water for at least 20 minutes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 two-inch knob ginger
- 2 bird’s eye chilies
- 1 carrot
- 150 grams soft tofu
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- ¼ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 8 cups bone broth divided
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- salt if your bone broth is under-salted
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch or corn starch (use more for a thicker soup)
- 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
- sliced scallions to garnish
- Cut the pork into thin slices; cut each slice into slivers about ¼ inch wide.
- Pull off and discard the stems of the shiitake mushrooms. Thinly slice the caps.
- Thinly slice the black fungus.
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Peel and grate the ginger.
- Chop the chili.
- Peel and julienne the carrot (note that bamboo shoot is the traditional vegetable for hot and sour soup, but I like carrot better).
- Cut the soft tofu into half-inch cubes.
- Heat the cooking oil in a pot.
- Saute the ginger, garlic and chili with the five-spice powder in the hot oil until lightly browned.
- Add the pork to the pot and cook until lightly browned.
- Add the shiitake to the pork.
- Pour in seven cups bone broth and the soy sauce. Stir in the sugar. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Disperse the corn starch in the remaining broth and pour into the pot. Stir until the broth is thick and clear.
- Add the tofu cubes, black fungus and julienned carrot to the soup. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes
- Turn off the heat and stir in the black vinegar. Taste. Add more salt if necessary (adding more soy sauce will make the soup too dark).
- Garnish the hot and sour soup with scallions and serve at once.