Authentic Chinese hot and sour soup....how often would you ask if it is authentic or not? I know you heard of Hot and Sour Soup. Do you like it? "Yes." "No." Do you think that it’s another American-Chinese food? "Ah….Yes?!" "No?!" "I don’t know."
Prep Time: 10 Minutes Cook Time: 20 Minutes Serving: 4
If you had tried Chinese hot and sour soup in different restaurants in the past, I can guarantee you that you tried all the ingredients here in this recipe. You might not know it at the time. To some people, having a bowl of hot and sour soup in a Chinese restaurant is a must.
Throughout all these years, I cook my hot and sour soup in many different ways. That's right, even though it is not 100% authentic sometimes. I did learn a very big lesson though.....
There is always an ingredient in this soup that someone would totally reject it, no matter what it is.
I highly encourage you to cook this soup as this recipe shows. But do make some adjustments of what ingredients you want to include in the soup based on the preference of your family.
No matter which restaurant you step into around the world, there is always more liquid in the soup than the rest of the ingredients combined. I purposefully make this soup more hearty so that it can be a one-pot meal instead of a side dish. If you prefer it to be a side dish, please feel free to do so.
Before diving into this delicious soup, I want to share with you some cultural background of this soup and info about some special ingredients. Hopefully, with more knowledge, it will help you to overcome the unknown and mysteries of the ingredients bring.
Hot and sour soup is a Shanghai (located in northeastern China. It is literally in the middle between Beijing and Guangzhou) dish. Thai also have their own hot & sour soup. But theirs is much different from the Chinese one. I like both. The main difference between these 2 soups is the color. Chinese hot and sour soup is almost black in color. Thai hot and sour soup is white.
When we have this soup, we always serve with the Shanghai style bread. (Coming soon). You can pick either the steamed or deep-fried one. Inside of the bread is very special. It is oblong. When you cut it open to peel off the outer layer of the bread, the inside is soft and can be torn into pieces. Just like eating string cheese that you peel a string off one by one. We always like to dip the bread into the soup and eat it.
Now, let's take a look of several major ingredients.
I bet you are curious and want to ask, “What is this?” To some of you, this sounds scary?
I bet you tried this before but never noticed that. The Hot and Sour Soup you had in your Chinese restaurant add this ingredient. They may not put a lot into the soup because, comparatively, this is a pretty expensive ingredient.
Now, let me tell you more about this. This is a kind of fungi (growing from the same kind of areas like mushrooms) which is black in color. They are mostly sold in dried form which makes it very easy to store.
In its same family, there are “Cloud Ears” and “Snow Ears”. “Snow Ear” is the kind that the Chinese cook it mostly in dessert. Even it is cooked, it is crunchy.
Since it is dry, you must soak it in water before cooking. When it’s
dry, it looks very small. Once it is soaked, it expands up to 5 times
of its original size.
Fridge is the best place to store this dried ingredient if you open the package.
Talking about noodles, one kind is called Bean Vermicelli. Some call it as “cellophane” threads because of its appearance.
Some local stores carry them and name it as “bean threads”. They are the same. It is in dried form. It is made of mung bean startch and transparent after it is cooked. It is a little bit chewy and having less carb compared with other Chinese noodles you can think of.
Bean Vermicelli is always packed in bundles. I would recommend you to
buy from the Chinese stores which carry the brands with 6-8 individually
packed bean threads weighted 1-2 ounces each. This will allow you to
preserve it longer in time.
The way how to cook bean vermicelli is pretty similar to the way of cooking other noodles. Due to its special texture, it doesn't get soggy easily like any noodles or pasta.
In fact, there are many different shapes and thickness of cellophane noodles out there now. If you are the noodles-lover and on low-carb diet, enjoy the pleasure of what bean vermicelli or its similar kinds brings to you.
The western world embraces fresh shiitake mushrooms and other mushrooms which are very popular in Asia.
Asian love dried shiitake mushrooms, especially those originated from Japan. Great quality dried shiitake mushrooms have a special fragrance. You can spell it as soon as you open the bag. When you cook it, it intensifies.
You must soak the dried mushrooms in cold water. The mushroom water is one of the main ingredients of this soup which bring out a very special flavor. I encourage you to stay away from the fresh ones.
Tofu came a long way. Although there is a relatively small population in the western world accepting this Asian-beloved ingredient, it is way more popular than a decade ago.
In Asia, tofu is very cheap. When you go to the market, we use "brick" as a measuring unit for tofu. That's right. You will buy so many "bricks" of tofu. The size is about the same as what you buy in a supermarket which is about a pound. The fragrance and taste of soy bean is much stronger with fresh tofu.
We use the extra firm tofu in this recipe. I know, you are going to ask me, "How to cut it?"
Assume you bought the tofu in package.
1 Box / 4 cups (29oz / 807g) Chicken Broth (feel free to use vegetable broth to make it purely vegetarian version)
2 Cups (17oz / 474g) Shredded Carrots
1 Egg (Beaten)
2oz (57g) Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (soaked in water and sliced)
3 pieces Dried Wood Ears (soaked in water and sliced)
1 Pack (16oz / 454g) Tofu (drained and cut into cubes)
2 pieces Small Dried Chilli Pepper (crushed)
1 Can (4oz / 114g) Bamboo Shoots (drained and cut to the similar size and length like shredded carrots)
1 Bundle (2oz / 57g) Dried Bean Threads
2-3 Scallion (optional; for garnish)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/8 Cup (1oz / 26g) Superior Dark Soy Sauce (This is the major ingredient to give that dark color of the soup)
1/8 Cup (1oz / 26g) Rice Vinegar
3 tablespoons Corn Starch
3 ¼ Cups (24oz / 656g) Water (divided)
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