Hot and sour soup may be something you’re used to ordering from your closest Chinese restaurant. But this easy and authentic version, filled with ground pork, tofu, and mushrooms, is done in less time than it takes to order takeout. And, quite honestly, it’s the best we’ve ever had.
This is, quite frankly, the loveliest hot and sour soup we’ve ever experienced. The author, Joanne Chang, isn’t kidding when she says this easy soup, which she learned how to make from her mother, Mama Chang, has “none of the glop,” referring, of course, to that characteristic gloppy texture prevalent in the Americanized hot and sour soup renditions found in many Chinese carryout restaurants. With its pronounced sour tang, this is a hot and sour soup recipe we’ll be turning to again and again and again. Many thanks to Joanne and to Mama Chang for sharing the recipe. –Renee Schettler Rossi
How to make hot and sour soup with everyday ingredients
A few words from the author, Joanne Chang, on how this easy incarnation of hot and sour soup came into existence and how you can still make it even if you don’t have all the traditional ingredients.
“My mom used to whip this up as a fast lunch for my brother and me. Ground pork isn’t traditional, but it makes the preparation of this soup ultra quick. Wood ear mushrooms, sometimes labeled “tree fungus” (appetizing, yes?) are a traditional ingredient but they can be hard to find unless you live near an Asian grocery store. I substitute easy-to-find button mushrooms, which don’t have the same crunch but add a nice earthy flavor. Egg, not flavorless cornstarch, acts as the thickener, allowing the flavors of pork, sesame, vinegar, and pepper to come shining through.”
Hot and Sour Soup
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 garlic clove smashed and minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 4 scallions white and green parts, minced, plus more for garnish
- 8 ounces ground pork
- 4 cups homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
- 1 pound soft or firm tofu (not silken and not extra firm), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 or 5 medium button mushrooms wiped clean and thinly sliced (or substitute dried, rehydrated wood ear mushrooms)
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/3 to 2/3 cup rice vinegar or to taste
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or to taste (or substitute tamari for gluten-free)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon store-bought or homemade Sriracha sauce or to taste
- 2 large eggs
- White or black pepper for garnish
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring occasionally to break up the pork, for about 1 minute. Don’t worry about cooking the pork through.
- Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Taste the soup. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha sauce; if you want it more sour, add more vinegar.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended.
- With the soup at a steady simmer, slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Divide the soup among 4 bowls and garnish each with a little sesame oil, scallion, and white or black pepper. Serve immediately. (Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The reheated hot and sour soup may take on a slightly different appearance but will taste just the same.)
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Although this hot and sour soup isn’t quite what I’ve had at some Chinese restaurants, it’s a great one to make and enjoy at home. I love that it uses ingredients that are easy to find.
We enjoyed the addition of ground pork, but I think it would also be good with ground chicken, turkey, or even beef. I opted to add an additional teaspoon Sriracha since we like ours on the spicy side. It tasted good when I tasted to check for more hot sauce or vinegar, but it was even better once it was in the bowls with the addition of a little more sesame oil. I’ll be making this one again when we’re craving hot and sour soup and can’t get to a Chinese restaurant.
This hot and sour soup uses readily available hot sauce instead of the hard-to-find canned Szechuan mustard, which my recipe calls for (why didn’t I ever think of that?), so I’ll probably be making this version of hot and sour soup more often.
The flavor is good, but the button mushrooms don’t give the same flavor that the Chinese dry mushrooms do, and I miss the bamboo shoots and tiger lilies. I used Marie Sharp’s Habanero Pepper Sauce that my daughter brought back from a trip to Beliz. I also used slivered raw chicken breast instead of the ground meat.
Previously I have only had hot and sour soups thickened with cornstarch, but this makes a strong case for running the other way and never looking back. This was an unexpected delight and packed with layers of flavor and texture. While the prominence of the vinegar won’t be to all tastes, it’s such a nice change of pace from the usual soups that I make at home and reheats incredibly well for weekday lunches. Every bite contains something new and I’m already looking forward to making it again.
I used cremini mushrooms, 2/3 cup rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon Sriracha (and let people add more if they wanted it). I didn’t have a problem with leftovers appearing different, except for the fat from the pork separating out to the top of the soup a little.
Originally published October 17, 2020