Hot & Sour Soup (酸辣湯)

Learn how to make this classic Chinese soup that's equal parts soothing and stimulating!

Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

This dish was a favorite at my parents’ old restaurant, and it’s often found on most Chinese takeout menus. 

As popular as hot and sour soup is, interestingly, this wasn’t something my parents ate growing up in Guangzhou. As with a lot of Chinese dishes, the origin (or origins), are hard to pinpoint, but it’s likely further north where the weather is colder and the flavors are more heat-inducing.

(Our friends at Chinese Cooking Demystified also have a great write up on this in their own version of Hot and Sour Soup.)

Regardless of where the dish came from, it’s a perfect soup for a cold winter day that’s equal parts spicy and soothing.

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 2 tomatoes (

    medium sized

    )
  • 2 oz carrot
  • 2 oz seafood mushroom
  • 2 oz king oyster mushroom
  • 3 pieces shiitake mushroom
  • 0.25 oz dried wood ear mushroom
  • 2 egg
  • 1 oz red bell pepper (

    half of a bell pepper, at the default serving size

    )
  • 2 pieces green onion
  • 2 pieces dried chili peppers (

    optional

    )
  • 14 oz tofu (

    firm

    )
  • Other Flavors
  • 5 cups water (

    for soup base

    )
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 0.50 tbsp dark soy sauce (

    add more for a darker colored soup

    )
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water (

    for cornstarch slurry

    )
  • sesame oil (

    to taste

    )
  • 1 tbsp corn oil

On White Pepper

If you’ve never heard of white pepper, it’s a spice that’s ground up from white peppercorns. Also, fun fact: black and white pepper actually both come from a fruit. The same fruit, to be exact. White peppercorns, black peppercorns, green peppercorns, red peppercorns, these are all the same berry from the same pepper plant, piper nigrum. 

The main difference is when and how they’re harvested and processed. Black peppercorns are dried as soon as they’re picked, and their skin becomes black and shriveled. White peppercorns are soaked for at least a week, which allows the outer skin to decompose. This leaves just the seed to be dried, with its distinctive heat and concentrated spiciness. 

As you’ll see in my dad’s recipe, even just a teaspoon of white pepper is enough for a pretty noticeable kick of heat. 

Interesting reads:

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

We don't really emphasize it in this specific video, but my dad is really big on washing his vegetables. So, wash them.

We'll be chopping a bunch of stuff here.

  • seafood mushrooms (2 oz): cut away the roots, and cut the stems in half
  • king oyster mushrooms (2 oz): cut in little strips.
    • My dad only uses about half of one for this recipe, but feel free to use more.
  • shiitake mushrooms (3 pieces): cut into thin slices
    • If you bought dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrate them in warm water for 10 minutes
  • dried wood ear mushroom (0.25 oz): rehydrate in warm water for 10 minutes, then cut into thin slices
  • tofu (14 oz): cut into thin strips
  • carrots (2 oz): cut into thin strips
  • red bell peppers (1 oz): cut into thin strips
  • green onion (2 pieces): mince
  • tomato (2): dice into small cubes

For the tomatoes, my dad has a pretty cool technique:

  • Cut off the end with the green stem, and cut the tomato in half
  • Make cuts about 1 centimeter apart that just almost reach the edge of the tomato.
  • Then, we’ll turn the tomato and make perpendicular cuts. Because the tomato is still held in place, it’s much easier to make these perpendicular cuts.

In a bowl, mix together cornstarch (3 tbsp) and water (2 tbsp)​ with a spoon until it becomes an even slurry.

In another bowl, crack eggs (2) and mix well.

For both of these, you'll need to mix them again later right before you pour them into the soup.

To save time for later, boil water (5 cups) in advance.

Set the stove to its highest heat setting, and start to heat up the wok.

Add a little bit of corn oil (1 tbsp)​, as well as our dried chili peppers (2 pieces).

We'll heat and toss the chilies around the oil for about 1 minute as our wok heats up. The purpose is to add more of a spicy essence to the oil.

Afterwards, we'll take the chilies out of the wok. We won't need them anymore.

Cook the diced tomatoes for 30-60 seconds, then add our boiled water (5 cups).

Next, we'll add white pepper (1 tsp) and stir for 15-30 seconds. It's important to add the white pepper before we thicken it with cornstarch, since it's much easier to mix the white pepper evenly across the soup base.

Then, we'll add salt (1 tsp), sugar (1 tbsp), light soy sauce (2 tbsp), and dark soy sauce (0.50 tbsp)​. If you prefer a darker look to your soup, you can add more dark soy sauce. Stir for 15-30 seconds.

And finally, we'll add our tofu, mushrooms, and vegetables (with the exception of green onion). Stir gently for 5-10 seconds.

Cover the wok with a lid. My dad opted for a smaller lid, which is supposed to help the wok come to a boil more quickly.

Once it's boiling (in about 3-4 minutes), we'll add the rest of our flavors.

Once the wok is boiling, we'll uncover the lid and add more character to our soup.

Cornstarch slurry

Since the cornstarch has probably settled, mix it up again with a spoon, and slowly pour in the cornstarch over the course of 50-60 seconds. Stir constantly.

Eggs

Beat the eggs (2) again, and slowly pour in the eggs all around the wok, over the course of 20-30 seconds. Unlike Egg Flower Soup, we don't have to stir as we pour.

Vinegar, Sesame Oil

Add vinegar (2 tbsp) to the wok, as well as sesame oil (to taste).

In general, it's important to add the vinegar towards the end. In doing so, we aren't wasting its pungency by cooking and boiling it away.

For similar reasons, my dad also tends to add sesame oil last in his recipes.

At this point, you should taste the soup and see if it needs and adjustments. Hopefully you are as satisfied as my dad!

Almost done! Turn off the heat and transfer the soup into a bowl. Garnish with the minced green onions.

Call your loved ones over - it's time to eat!

Summary

Hot & Sour Soup (酸辣湯)
Learn how to make this classic Chinese soup that's equal parts soothing and stimulating!
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Total Time: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 2 tomatoes (

    medium sized

    )
  • 2 oz carrot
  • 2 oz seafood mushroom
  • 2 oz king oyster mushroom
  • 3 pieces shiitake mushroom
  • 0.25 oz dried wood ear mushroom
  • 2 egg
  • 1 oz red bell pepper (

    half of a bell pepper, at the default serving size

    )
  • 2 pieces green onion
  • 2 pieces dried chili peppers (

    optional

    )
  • 14 oz tofu (

    firm

    )
  • Other Flavors
  • 5 cups water (

    for soup base

    )
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 0.50 tbsp dark soy sauce (

    add more for a darker colored soup

    )
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water (

    for cornstarch slurry

    )
  • sesame oil (

    to taste

    )
  • 1 tbsp corn oil
Step 1 - Chop tofu, mushrooms, veggies↑ Jump to details

We don't really emphasize it in this specific video, but my dad is really big on washing his vegetables. So, wash them.

We'll be chopping a bunch of stuff here.

  • seafood mushrooms (2 oz): cut away the roots, and cut the stems in half
  • king oyster mushrooms (2 oz): cut in little strips.
    • My dad only uses about half of one for this recipe, but feel free to use more.
  • shiitake mushrooms (3 pieces): cut into thin slices
    • If you bought dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrate them in warm water for 10 minutes
  • dried wood ear mushroom (0.25 oz): rehydrate in warm water for 10 minutes, then cut into thin slices
  • tofu (14 oz): cut into thin strips
  • carrots (2 oz): cut into thin strips
  • red bell peppers (1 oz): cut into thin strips
  • green onion (2 pieces): mince
  • tomato (2): dice into small cubes

For the tomatoes, my dad has a pretty cool technique:

  • Cut off the end with the green stem, and cut the tomato in half
  • Make cuts about 1 centimeter apart that just almost reach the edge of the tomato.
  • Then, we’ll turn the tomato and make perpendicular cuts. Because the tomato is still held in place, it’s much easier to make these perpendicular cuts.
Step 2 - Prepare cornstarch slurry and eggs↑ Jump to details

In a bowl, mix together cornstarch (3 tbsp) and water (2 tbsp)​ with a spoon until it becomes an even slurry.

In another bowl, crack eggs (2) and mix well.

For both of these, you'll need to mix them again later right before you pour them into the soup.

To save time for later, boil water (5 cups) in advance.

Step 3 - Heat wok with oil, chili↑ Jump to details

Set the stove to its highest heat setting, and start to heat up the wok.

Add a little bit of corn oil (1 tbsp)​, as well as our dried chili peppers (2 pieces).

We'll heat and toss the chilies around the oil for about 1 minute as our wok heats up. The purpose is to add more of a spicy essence to the oil.

Afterwards, we'll take the chilies out of the wok. We won't need them anymore.

Step 4 - Add vegetables, flavors↑ Jump to details

Cook the diced tomatoes for 30-60 seconds, then add our boiled water (5 cups).

Next, we'll add white pepper (1 tsp) and stir for 15-30 seconds. It's important to add the white pepper before we thicken it with cornstarch, since it's much easier to mix the white pepper evenly across the soup base.

Then, we'll add salt (1 tsp), sugar (1 tbsp), light soy sauce (2 tbsp), and dark soy sauce (0.50 tbsp)​. If you prefer a darker look to your soup, you can add more dark soy sauce. Stir for 15-30 seconds.

And finally, we'll add our tofu, mushrooms, and vegetables (with the exception of green onion). Stir gently for 5-10 seconds.

Step 5 - Cover wok, bring to boil↑ Jump to details

Cover the wok with a lid. My dad opted for a smaller lid, which is supposed to help the wok come to a boil more quickly.

Once it's boiling (in about 3-4 minutes), we'll add the rest of our flavors.

Step 6 - Add cornstarch, egg, vinegar, sesame oil↑ Jump to details

Once the wok is boiling, we'll uncover the lid and add more character to our soup.

Cornstarch slurry

Since the cornstarch has probably settled, mix it up again with a spoon, and slowly pour in the cornstarch over the course of 50-60 seconds. Stir constantly.

Eggs

Beat the eggs (2) again, and slowly pour in the eggs all around the wok, over the course of 20-30 seconds. Unlike Egg Flower Soup, we don't have to stir as we pour.

Vinegar, Sesame Oil

Add vinegar (2 tbsp) to the wok, as well as sesame oil (to taste).

In general, it's important to add the vinegar towards the end. In doing so, we aren't wasting its pungency by cooking and boiling it away.

For similar reasons, my dad also tends to add sesame oil last in his recipes.

At this point, you should taste the soup and see if it needs and adjustments. Hopefully you are as satisfied as my dad!

Step 7 - Plate, garnish↑ Jump to details

Almost done! Turn off the heat and transfer the soup into a bowl. Garnish with the minced green onions.

Call your loved ones over - it's time to eat!

Step 8 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 9 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

I have so many memories eating this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and hang out with our adorable son. We get into a lot of detail about how this soup differs at restaurants and across China, and what life was like for my parents growing up in China.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.

Watch on YouTube

About Made With Lau

We started Made With Lau to honor and share the legacy of our wonderful parents, Jenny and Chung Sun Lau.

Our hope is that these posts give you (and our future generations) a glimpse into how great they are!