Hot and Sour Soup (酸辣汤)

Hot and Sour Soup (酸辣汤)

This authentic recipe for hot-and-sour soup is essentially an ancient Chinese doctor’s curative that combines the healing magic of chicken broth, the circulation-enhancing qualities of wood ear mushrooms and lily buds, and the antiseptic properties of vinegar. The heat isn’t from chilis – it’s actually from freshly ground white pepper. You can find the more exotic Chinese ingredients at an Asian grocery store or order them online (such as wood ears, black mushrooms, and dried lily buds), substitute them for more readily available ingredients (sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms or canned straw mushrooms are acceptable substitutions for wood ears and black mushrooms), or simply omit those that you can’t find (like dried lily buds).

  • 5 oz. boneless pork loin, cut into ¼-inch-thick strips (2/3 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (Lee Kum Kee or Pearl River Bridge are good brands)
  • 4 small Chinese dried black mushrooms
  • 12 small dried wood ear mushrooms (also called black fungus)
  • 1½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 12 dried lily buds (sometimes called golden needles)
  • ½ cup canned sliced bamboo shoots, cut lengthwise into ⅛-inch-wide strips
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (unseasoned)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3-4 oz firm tofu (about ¼ of a block), rinsed and drained, then cut into ¼”-thick strips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens


Toss pork with dark soy sauce in a bowl until pork is well coated.

Soak black and wood ear mushrooms in 3 cups boiling-hot water in another bowl (water should cover mushrooms), turning over black mushrooms occasionally, until softened, about 30 minutes. (wood ears will expand significantly.) Cut out and discard stems from black mushrooms, then squeeze excess liquid from caps into bowl and thinly slice caps. Remove wood ears from bowl, reserving liquid, and trim off any hard nubs. If large, cut wood ears into bite-size pieces. Stir together 1/4 cup mushroom-soaking liquid (discard remainder) with cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, soak lily buds in about 1 cup warm water until softened, about 20 minutes, then drain. Trim off tough tips of lily buds. Cut lily buds in half crosswise, then tear each half lengthwise into 2 or 3 shreds.

Cover bamboo shoots with cold water by 2 inches in a small saucepan, then bring just to a boil (to remove bitterness) and drain in a sieve.

Stir together vinegars, light soy sauce, sugar, and salt in another small bowl.

Heat a wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Pour peanut oil down side of wok, then swirl oil, tilting wok to coat sides. Add pork and stir-fry until meat just changes color, about 1 minute, then add black mushrooms, wood ears, lily buds, and bamboo shoots and stir-fry 1 minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil, then add tofu. Return to a boil and add vinegar mixture. Stir cornstarch mixture, then add to broth and return to a boil, stirring. (Liquid will thicken.) Reduce heat to moderate and simmer 1 minute.

Beat eggs with a fork and add a few drops of sesame oil. Add eggs to soup in a thin stream, stirring slowly in one direction with a spoon. Stir in white pepper, then drizzle in remaining sesame oil and divide among 6 to 8 bowls. Sprinkle with scallions before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 first-course servings