When I was growing up, my mom would prepare onion soup with lots of garlic as a remedy for getting through colds. It was essentially the French equivalent of chicken soup, without pieces of a dead bird in it! It was my favorite until I discovered authentic Chinese hot and sour soup! Sorry mom but it now our go-to soup whenever we feel under the weather or when the temperatures start to drop and our body is working to readjust! Traditional hot and sour soup served in Chinese restaurants is made with chicken or beef broth. So you have to make it from scratch but it is well worth it and not so difficult. This soup has the perfect balance of heat, sweetness, and tang, all wrapped up in the smoothest silky broth! What’s not to like? You get an explosion of flavors in every spoonful! it warms up and you can make it in less than 45 mn if you are organized!
Hot & Sour Soup 101
The heat mostly comes from white pepper (not black), the light sourness comes from vinegar (white or rice), the sweetness… well, sugar. But it doesn’t stop here, there are more layers to this amazing soup! Minced ginger brings earthiness, shiitake mushrooms are the backbone of the broth adding a rich umami element to it, and toasted sesame oil for the good fat!
You will need vegetable broth (cubes or powder), soy sauce (light and dark if you have both), vinegar (white or rice), a little sugar, white pepper, minced ginger. I always add minced garlic for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. If you are fighting a cold, you might as well get all the help Mother nature has provided us with! To create the silky texture, you will add starch at the very end.
Not only do mushrooms create amazing broth but they are also the main actors in this soup! You will be using 2 kinds:
Dried shiitake mushrooms (on the right): they can be bought in most grocery stores in the Asian section. They are very inexpensive and will last forever! You need them and will love the flavor!
Wood ear mushrooms (on the left): They can be a little harder to find but you can always get them in Asian stores or online. They do look a little like leathery ears but not in a creepy kind of way! Once rehydrated, they have a unique soft and lightly crunchy texture. Don’t worry, if you can’t find any, just substitute other mushrooms like crimini or even white caps.
You will need to rehydrate the mushrooms in boiling water. They will increase in size when they are done. If the stems are still tough, just remove them.
Bamboo shoots: buy cans in the Asian section of most grocery stores. They add a nice crunchiness to the soup.
Firm tofu: make sure to press the tofu to remove as much water as possible so that it will soak some of that great broth as it cooks! Avoid using soft or silken tofu because it will disintegrate and you will end up with something like mapo tofu! Extra-firm tofu also works.
My secret ingredient
When you eat a traditional Chinese hot and sour soup, you see ribbons of egg yolks that float on top of the soup and add to its thickness. Since vegans don’t eat eggs, I have been experimenting with different ideas. None of the vegan egg alternatives like JustEgg, produced the desired results. They all dissolved! Until I got the idea of using yuba.
What the heck is yuba?
It is a thin sheet that is obtained when making soy milk. It is literally the fat that floats to the surface and is then dried. You can only find it at Asian stores in the frozen section or fresh in Tofu stores. It can be used in many ways. For this soup, you just cut it into thin strips and mix it into the hot soup until they rehydrate and soften. They will almost look like egg ribbons. It is pretty cool.
Here is the recipe. It goes really well with a side of vegetable fried rice.
Chinese Hot and Sour Soup Vegan
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chili paste
- 10 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 cups hot water
- 2-4 wood ear mushrooms
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 can bamboo shoots drained
- 1 cup firm tofu (pressed and cubed
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 tbsp water
- 2 tsp White pepper
- 1/4 cup white wine Vinegar
- 1 tbsp Sesame oil
- 1/2 cup scallions
- 1/4 cup Cilantro
- 1 yuba sheet cut in ribbons
- Soak 10 dried shiitake mushrooms into 2 cups of hot water. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Soak 2-4 wood ear mushrooms into 1 cup hot water for 5 minutes.
- Pour 6 cups of vegetable broth, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp chili paste.
- Remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid and slice them.
- Add the sliced mushrooms and the soaking liquid to the broth.
- Add a can of bamboo shoots and a cup of cubed firm tofu and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add white pepper, sesame oil, white vinegar, yuba ribbons and stir.
- Pour the cornstarch slurry at the very end and it will thicken the broth. Add the green onions and fresh cilantro.
Yuba is optional but it does add a nice texture to the soup.
Serve with some white rice.
If you like it hot, increase the white pepper or chili paste.
Definitely make extra. You can always freeze it for later.
Bon appetit !