Hot & Sour Soup - Detail - ©

Classic Dishes: Hot & Sour Soup

Let’s take a trip to Asia for a few ‘Classic Dishes’ posts and find out how easy it is to make some of your favourite Eastern foods! One of the Classic Asian Dishes I always try, as a way to benchmark a new Asian eatery, is Hot & Sour Soup. It’s a simple dish, but the balance of hot and sour is crucial!

Hot & Sour Soup - © woksoflife.comClassic Chinese Hot & Sour Soup. Note the Egg ‘feathers’. Note also, the popular variation in which the Tofu is cut into 1/4 in x 1/4 in. x 2 in. / 1 cm x 1 cm x 5 cm ‘sticks’.
Red Pepper Flakes are usually offered on the side, as a garnish
the diner can apply, as desired.

I love this unique Soup! It originated in China but is now claimed – in various variations – by most of the southeast Asian cuisines and India. Of those variations, most consist of enhancements of the original recipe and additions of a wide range of extra ingredients. You’ll get the hang of embellishing your Hot & Sour Soup recipe quickly, once you start making it.

What you need…

This ingredient list is for a basic Hot and Sour Soup. I’ll indicate popular variations on the basic formula along the way…

4-6 cups / 1-1.5 L Chicken Stock
2 tbsp. / 30 ml Light Soy Sauce
4 tsp.  20 ml White Vinegar
2 tsp. / 10 ml Light Sesame Oil
2 tbsp. / 30 ml Corn Starch or Arrowroot Powder
1 cup / 250 ml Cooked Chicken, shredded or cubed 1/4 in. / 1 cm
1 cup firm Tofu, diced 1/2 in. / 1.5 cm and then sliced thin
1 cup Shiitake mushrooms, sliced coarsely (May be re-hydrated dried mushrooms,see below.)
1 tsp. / 5 ml Cayenne or ground Szechuwan Pepper
1 or 2 large Egg(s), beaten, to finish
1 healthy pinch Salt
1 Healthy pinch ground White Pepper

For the Garnish:
3 tbsp. / 45 ml freshly chopped Green Onions

For the Marinade:
2 tsp. / 15 ml Light Soy Sauce
1 tsp. / 5 ml Lemon Juice or Chinese Cooking Wine
1 tsp. / 5 ml Cornstarch or Arrowroot Powder

What you do…

First: Mix up the Marinade in a small bowl and add the Chicken. Mix thoroughly to coat the meat, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least half an hour until needed.

Next: If using dried Mushrooms, place them in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Boiling  Water is not recommended as it may degrade the flavour of the Mushrooms. Reserve the soaking water from the Mushrooms to add to the Soup later.

Then: In a large Sauce Pan heat the Light Sesame Oil to Medium-High. Then, toss in the Tofu and Mushrooms and cook until lightly browned and just heated through.

Add the Chicken and cook just a minute, to heat it through. Do not brown it; it will get rough.

Keep the ingredients moving in the pan all the time they are cooking in the oil alone.

Add the Cayenne, Salt and Pepper and toss to distribute them throughout the ingredients.

Now: Add the Chicken Stock, Soy Sauce and Vinegar and Mushroom Water, and stir gently to blend all ingredients thoroughly.

Dissolve the Corn Starch in 1/2 cup / 125 ml Cold water and add to the Soup Pot. Stir gently another couple of minutes, until the Soup thickens.

Since adding the Stock and other liquids, the soup has been slowly coming back to a low boil. When this temperature is reached, use a pair of chopsticks to swirl the soup briskly while pouring in the beaten Egg(s). They should string out into feathers and shreds which will mix themselves throughout the Soup.

Serve in soup bowls. Most folks also provide a bowl full of chopped Green Onions and a bowl of Hot Pepper Flakes for diners to add as they wish.

Hint: You can also make this dish with Pork! Use Chicken or vegetable stock as a complement.

Bet you thought it took hours of simmering and a whole pile of mysterious ingredients to get this iconic Asian flavour… Surprise!

~ Maggie J.