Hot and Sour Soup

The cool fall weather has us turning lately towards comfort food. My childhood memories are full of the smells and tastes of homecooked meals, and I’m fortunate that those foods were never limited to meat-and-potatoes or apple pie (though there was plenty of both). Indian curries, falafel, root vegetable soups… have I mentioned my mom is a great cook?

While my mom spends a lot of her time thinking up new and exciting foods to make (sound like anyone you know?), my dad tends to stick to a few delicious specialties. In addition to “Daddy’s Delight,” a balsamic vinaigrette my brother and I named and would practically drink as children, his staples include spaghetti and meatballs, meatpies, and… hot and sour soup? As a kid I had no idea how unusual it was to come home from church on Sunday and help dad whip up a pot of this (apparently exotic) family favorite.

On my dad’s last visit to the big apple, I asked him over a plateful of dumplings to give me the how-to for his signature soup. Since then I’ve translated his “dash of this” and “handful of that” into a recipe to share with all of you (and Doug, whose exasperated look after attempting to make soup from my notes inspired this post.)

A single trip to Chinatown (or a grocery store with a well-stocked Asian foods section) should easily afford you the pantry basics for bowl after bowl of delicious soup. Black mushrooms, often labelled as simply “dried mushrooms,” usually come in a big bag that will store indefinitely. The same goes for dried black fungus (often called ”fungus”). Chinese five spice can be found in most big grocery stores - take a big whiff and you’ll instantly know where the distinctive taste of hot and sour soup comes from. The extras can be adapted to whatever you have on hand – this is the sort of soup you can easily throw together on a whim or adapt to your own tastes.

One trick for soaking mushrooms is to do so in a French press to keep them submerged. If you don’t have one (or it’s full of coffee, as ours was today), just stir them with your hands every few minutes. The leftover liquid from soaking the mushrooms should not go to waste! Use it as a starting point for making vegetable stock, or throw it in with rice to impart a rich earthy flavor.

Hot and Sour Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 Servings

Nothing warms your belly like a hearty hot and sour soup. This versatile meal comes together in minutes and can be made as vegan/vegetarian or meat-ful as your taste and fridge permit.


  • 4 cups of any stock
  • 3-5 dried Chinese black mushrooms
  • ½ to ¾ cup dried black fungus
  • 2-3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar (rice, white, cider, balsamic...)
  • 1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce or Sriracha
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice
  • Optional:
  • ½ cup frozen shrimp
  • strips of sliced ham
  • ½ lb tofu, cubed
  • 1 can bamboo shoots
  • 1-2 eggs
  • ¼ cups green onion
  • ½ to 1 cup bean sprouts


  1. Slice dry mushrooms. Cover mushrooms and fungus with water and soak until tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. While mushrooms are soaking, bring broth to a boil over high heat. Strain mushrooms and fungus (reserve that flavorful liquid!) and add to broth with shrimp, ham, tofu and/or bamboo shoots (if using). Bring back to a boil, then reduce temperature to medium.
  3. Dissolve cornstarch in 1/3 cup liquid from mushrooms then add to broth.
  4. Add soy sauce, vinegar, chili garlic sauce or Sriracha, and Chinese five spice. Simmer until thickened.
  5. Break eggs into a bowl and whisk quickly with a fork, then add to broth while stirring.
  6. Add green onions and/or bean sprouts, if using. Serve hot.

Most of the ingredients are probably in your pantry already. You can use any kind of broth (I usually use homemade veggie broth, but my dad uses beef bouillon in water) and can experiment with different kinds of vinegar for a different kind of tang (here I used rice vinegar).

Beware: this soup is delicious and addictive. Do not make it (for the second day in a row) when you’re home alone for the afternoon… there may not be leftovers. Not that I’d ever eat a whole pot of soup in one sitting…

P.S. Have you noticed I put our new camera to work? Getting away from cell phone pictures and using our windowsill for better light makes a huge difference!

This entry was posted in Appetizer, Gluten-Free, Low Fat, Lunch, Vegan, Vegetarian. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Hot and Sour Soup

  1. Mom says:

    Well, your Dad now thinks he’s famous. It’s just lucky you & your brother didn’t tell your friends that he was feeding you fungus or Children’s Aid would’ve been at the door. I think I’ll ask him to make Hot & Sour Soup this Sunday…… mmmmmm.

  2. Dann Berg says:

    Pure food porn. Looks and sounds delicious, and the pictures look amazing.

    I keep meaning to get a fresh press, too. Good to know they can be used for more than just coffee!

  3. Leah says:

    Thanks! It’s my go to soup recipe, it’s super easy and quick once you have the dry ingredients stocked. I don’t think Doug would survive without our french press, it’s a rare day in our house that it *isn’t* full of coffee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>