Hot and Sour Soup

Soup and StewChineseGluten-FreeLow Carb

Hot and Sour Soup! with Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, chicken broth, vinegar, tofu, chili oil, and a beaten egg.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Hot and sour soup is a lot like chili; every family has their own recipe, and each family thinks that theirs is the best.

When I was in the local Chinese market perusing the mushrooms I asked one of the other shoppers, a tiny and ancient woman half my height whose etched wrinkles framed a friendly smile, where the wood ear mushrooms were.

“What are you using them for?”

“Hot and sour soup,” I replied.

“What? You don’t want those. Here,” she grabbed a bag of dried shiitake, “use these.”

“No! You don’t want those for hot and sour soup!” cried another, more stout lady behind me. She said something in Cantonese to the first lady before grabbing a fresh bunch of enoki mushrooms and throwing them in my basket. “This is better.”

Hot and Sour Soup

Soon, nine women were having an all out argument in the middle of the aisle. I was stuck in the middle, caught between volleys of angry insults and defenses of cherished family recipes for hot and sour soup, both in Cantonese and English.

People insulted each other’s families, critiqued the various provinces of China (all were in agreement that the people in the North, apparently, can’t cook good soup), and altered the contents of my shopping basket at whim.

Eventually, a decision was reached that you absolutely have to use black fungus—an apt, but unappetizing name for a delightful ingredient—and lily buds. The other mushroom is up to you. Whatever one you decide on be sure to be ready to defend your choice.

Hot Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup Recipe

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

You can use gluten-free soy sauce in this recipe, and use vegetable stock to make it vegetarian. However, do not substitute black pepper for the white pepper. The mushrooms and lily buds can be found at any Chinese market.


  • 6 dried Chinese black fungus
  • 6 dried wood ear, black, cloud, straw, or shiitake mushrooms, or one bunch of fresh enoki mushrooms
  • 5 dried lily buds
  • One can of bamboo shoots
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/2 block of firm tofu, diced into small cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 3 scallions, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chili oil (optional)
  • Cilantro (optional)


1 Prepare the dried mushrooms: Pour boiling water over the mushrooms until the mushrooms are covered and allow them to soak for 20 minutes, turning the mushrooms over occasionally. It may not seem like a lot but they will grow quite a bit.

After soaking remove any woody ends with a knife. Cut mushrooms into strips. Reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid and mix with the cornstarch. (If using fresh enoki mushrooms set aside as they do not need to soak).

2 Pour boiling water over the lily buds until covered and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Cut the buds crosswise then tear them up into a few bunches.

3 Mix the vinegars and soy sauce together and set aside. Open the can of bamboo shoots, drain well, and cut the shoots lengthwise into strips.

4 Build the soup: Place the chicken broth into a bot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tofu, mushrooms, lily buds, bamboo shoots, vinegar mixture, and cornstarch mixture. Mix and bring back to a boil. Once it comes to a boil remove from heat.

5 While stirring the soup slowly pour the egg into the broth in a small steam while stirring the soup allowing the egg to instantly cook and feather into the soup.

6 Add the scallions, white pepper, sesame oil, and chili oil if using. Taste and adjust white pepper, vinegar, and salt to taste. Add cilantro to garnish and for added flavor. Serve immediately.

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Hot and Sour Soup

Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a professional writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in many print and online publications such as Gourmet Live, Saveur, Huffington Post, Smithsonian, and NPR. Past clients also include numerous food companies, wineries, and distilleries. Garrett writes about cocktails on his website, Coupe de Grace.

More from Garrett

14 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Mitch

    Hot and sour soup is my Chinese restaurant favorite. When I finally decided to try making it at home, this is the recipe I made. It’s perfect as is. The reaction from friends when I served it the first time: restaurant quality. Perhaps what I like best about it is that it’s a flexible and adaptable recipe. After making it many times, I’ve slowly adapted it to my personal taste and to what I usually have on hand. I use Chinese black vinegar, Better Than Bouillon for the stock base, more mushrooms than called for, lots more corn starch (I like it thick.), and sambal oelek insteak of the chili oil. Try it!

  2. Amanda

    Wow! I just made this (again) tonight and it is DELICIOUS. Thank you so much for posting such a great recipe. : )

  3. Gordon

    Oh. My. Gosh!!!
    I am still sweating! This was the most delicious soup! I had to add a bit more seasoned rice wine vinegar and red wine vinegar (about 5 or 6 tablespoons each) but once I hit the “sweet” spot that was it. So delicious… Oh, I said that already – well it needs to be said. I WILL make this again, and again, and again…. Thank you Garrett! (and Elise) :)


  4. Johnny Smith

    I cooked this recipe for my family last night and they absolutely loved it. Thanks so much for the post Garrett!!! I will make this again and again. It is truely a wonderful recipe. My wife and two grown daughters love asian food with hot and sour soup being one of our favarites. We get it everytime we eat asian food. This is by far the best we’ve ever had.

  5. Don Cuevas

    Looks good, but where’s the pork or chicken shreds?

    And how does black fungus differ from from tree (cloud) ears?

    Don Cuevas

    Traditionally, there is no meat in this dish, but feel free to add it. I think, if I am correct, those two mushrooms are the different species of the same genus. Like blue oyster mushrooms to golden oyster mushrooms. ~Garrett

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