Hot and sour soup (酸辣汤) is one of the most popular soups from Chinese restaurants, along with egg drop soup and wonton soup. It's loaded with tofu, bamboo shoots, mushrooms like white button and wood ear mushrooms, and completed with swirls of egg drop flowers. It's a great appetizer and perfect as a light meal. Plus, it takes only 15 minutes!
Hot and sour soup or suān là tāng (酸辣汤)is a cult favorite that can be found at any Chinese restaurants. Its mouthwatering savory, tangy, and spicy flavor is perfect for opening up your appetite in the heat of the summer, comfort you on a dreary day, and make you feel better when you're under the weather.
One quirky thing we like to do is adding some egg drop soup to our hot and sour soup. I know it's weird, but the combo tastes amazing! You gotta give it a try next time!
If you're looking for more Chinese takeout dishes to complete your meal, try our beef and broccoli or chicken and broccoli, shrimp fried rice, sesame chicken, or General Tso's chicken.
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
For the soup base:
- Unsalted chicken stock - Any chicken stock will do, as long it is unsalted. This way you can control the amount of salt added. Also, this recipe's seasoning is based on unsalted chicken stock.
- White vinegar - This provides hot and sour soup with the iconic tang.
- Light and dark soy sauce - Light soy sauce, also known as your everyday, regular soy sauce. We recommend low sodium soy sauce. Dark soy sauce adds a depth of flavor to the soup, a subtle sweetness, and most importantly color, like in our Chinese red braised pork.
- Sugar - To help round out the flavor and mellow out the harshness of the vinegar.
- Chicken bouillon powder - We highly recommend adding some chicken bouillon powder to the soup. It really enhances the flavor the of soup and makes the soup taste well rounded.
- Salt - We used coarse Kosher salt, but you can use fine salt as well. Just use a little less if you are using fine salt.
- White pepper and red pepper flakes - Both peppers adds spiciness to the soup. Feel free to use more or less of each to your preference.
- Cornstarch - For thickening the soup. Make a cornstarch slurry by mixing the cornstarch with room temperature or cool water.
- Toasted sesame oil - Only a small amount of sesame oil is needed to add a subtle toasted flavor.
For the add-on ingredients:
- Tofu - This is a popular add-on ingredient in classic hot and sour soup. We prefer using firm tofu, but feel free to use any type you prefer.
- Bamboo shoot - We recommend getting canned bamboo shoots that are already cut into strips or you can cut it by hand. Make sure to drain and rinse if necessary.
- Mushrooms - Feel free to use any mushrooms of your choice. We usually use white button, baby portobello, or shiitake mushrooms.
- Wood ear mushrooms - A classic in hot and sour soup! It's got a crunchy texture and sometimes known as black fungus and cloud ear mushroom. Wood ear mushroom is normally sold dry and require rehydrating with hot water before use.
- Eggs - For the iconic egg drop "flower" in the soup.
- Green onion - It adds flavor and color to the soup. You can also use some for garnish.
How to make restaurant-style hot and sour soup
1. In a medium pot over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the crushed pepper flakes and stir fry for about 10 to 15 seconds.
2. Immediately add the chicken stock, followed by the vinegar, both soy sauces, sugar, chicken bouillon powder, salt, and white pepper. Bring the soup to a boil.
3. Once the soup is boiling, add the tofu, bamboo shoot, and both mushrooms. Bring the soup back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium.
4. While stirring the soup, slowly stir in the cornstarch slurry until all has been added. Let the soup simmer until thickened, about 30 seconds.
5. When the soup has thickened, slowly drizzle in the beaten eggs around the pot in a circular motion. Stir up the soup and add the sesame oil and sliced green onions.
🌟 Pro tip: How you add the egg and when you stir the egg will determine how your egg drops will look.
▶︎ For thin egg drops: Stir the soup while pouring in the eggs or wait for a second or two between stirring the soup. The sooner and more you stir the soup, the thinner and wispier the egg drops will be. This may give your soup a cloudier appearance.
▶︎ For thick egg drops: Let the soup sit for a few seconds before stirring. The longer you wait, the thicker ribbon the egg drops will be.
6. Top the soup with more green onions if you'd like and enjoy! The soup will be super hot, so you may want to wait a moment before serving.
- Use your preferred add-on ingredients. The add-on ingredients we listed are the most commonly and most popularly used. However, you don't have to use all of them if you wish not to. We do recommend at least some tofu, mushrooms, and egg though.
- Adjust how tangy and spicy you want the soup. Feel free to use more or less of the vinegar, white pepper, and pepper flakes.
- The best time to taste the soup is after adding all of the add-on ingredients. The soup will taste more mellowed out once the soup comes to a boil after adding the add-on ingredients. Taste it then and adjust the seasoning if desired. Do keep in mind that the egg will mellow out the soup a little more.
- Dry wood ear mushrooms require rehydrating before use. Simply pour boiling water over the mushrooms and let it sit until rehydrated, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Any leftover hot and sour soup can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Make sure to let the soup cool completely before refrigerating.
You can reheat the soup either in the microwave or on the stovetop until hot. If your hot and sour soup looks thin, you can stir in some more cornstarch slurry to re-thicken if you want.
Potato starch is a good substitute for cornstarch. You can use it in the same amount, mixed with water.
Wood ear mushrooms (黑木耳), sometimes also known as black fungus, cloud mushrooms, and kikurage. It's usually sold dry and looks tiny, black and/or grey. After rehydrating, it will expand and look like a crinkly ear with a crunchy texture. It's popular in soups, salads, and sometimes stir fries.
Absolutely! You can use less vinegar, white pepper, and/or pepper flakes to adjust the taste to your preference.
Feel free to adjust the thickness of your soup by using more or less cornstarch slurry. The amount recommended in the recipe is for average thickness.
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Hot and Sour Soup
For the soup base:
- 4 cups unsalted chicken stock (or 32 fl. oz)
- 4 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce light sodium
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt (use a little less if using fine salt)
- ½ teaspoon white pepper (more or less to your preference)
- 1 teaspoon oil (any neutral oil)
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to your preference)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch (mixed with 5 TBSP/ 75 mL of water for slurry)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
For the add-on ingredients:
- 8 ounces firm tofu small diced (or the tofu of your choice)
- 3 ounces bamboo shoot strips drained
- 4 ounces mushrooms sliced (any mushrooms of your choice)
- 5 pieces dry wood ear mushroom rehydrated and thinly sliced
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 2 stalks green onion thinly sliced (and more for garnish if you want)
- In a medium pot over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the crushed pepper flakes and stir fry for about 10 to 15 seconds.
- Immediately add the chicken stock, followed by the vinegar, both soy sauces, sugar, chicken bouillon powder, salt, and white pepper. Bring the soup to a boil.
- Once the soup is boiling, add the tofu, bamboo shoot, and both mushrooms. Bring the soup back to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium.
- While stirring the soup, slowly stir in the cornstarch slurry until all has been added. Let the soup simmer until thickened, about 30 seconds.
- When the soup has thickened, slowly drizzle in the beaten eggs around the pot in a circular motion. Stir up the soup and add the sesame oil and sliced green onions.For thin egg drops: Stir the soup while pouring in the eggs or wait for a second or two between stirring the soup. The sooner and more you stir the soup, the thinner and wispier the egg drops will be. This may give your soup a cloudier appearance.For thick egg drops: Let the soup sit for a few seconds before stirring. The longer you wait, the thicker ribbon the egg drops will be.
- Top the soup with more green onions if you'd like and enjoy! The soup will be super hot, so you may want to wait a moment before serving.
- Vegetarian option - You can substitute the chickens stock for water or vegetable stock. This mushroom powder is a great vegetarian/vegan substitute for the chicken bouillon powder.
- Add-on ingredients - Feel free to use as many or as few of these ingredients, but we do recommend at least the tofu, mushrooms, and eggs.
- How to rehydrate wood ear mushrooms - To rehydrate dry wood ear mushrooms, place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let them sit for about 5 to 10 minutes or until they are fully rehydrated.
- Vinegar, white pepper, and chili flakes - Feel free to adjust the amount used to your taste. Do note that the vinegar does mellow out after adding all the ingredients.
I loved hot and sour soup from one specific restaurant since I was a kid. I moved abroad 9 years ago and tried desperately to find one similar, with no luck. I gave up years ago, waiting for the one time per year I could go back and get my favorite soup. I stumbled across your website and decided to try this recipe, and it tastes exactly as I remember. I'm so happy I can make it myself, and it's a recipe I'm actually able to do. Thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you for sharing your story and leaving such a heartwarming comment! It's inspiring us to continue sharing recipes that bring back fond memories =) We are so happy that you enjoyed it!
Easy to follow, highly delicious!
Thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed it =)