Hot and sour soup (suan la tang) – a simple warming Chinese recipe

Hot and sour soup is a perfect winter warmer now that we’re through to the last month in the year and the temperature’s dropping (further). It’s a soup that’s always on the menu in Chinese restaurants, and there are lots of fusion recipes around as well, such as the hot and sour chicken noodle soup. Traditionally, you’ll have hot and sour soup after a meal, and it’s supposed to help you feel better after a night of drinking – also extra handy during the festive season!

The soup is originally from Sichuan, and you’ll find that the ones in restaurants are quite thick due to the cornflour. The versions you make at home generally don’t contain cornflour, so the consistency is much more watery. Here we’ve put cornflour as an optional ingredient, as it really doesn’t affect the taste of the soup.

This is a really easy recipe, and will cook you a nice pot of the soup. I can have half a pot to myself, but generally, it should serve 4 people.


5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup of dried wood ears
50g of pork

200g of tofu
1 stock cube
1 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tbsp of rice vinegar
Pinch of sugar
150g of sliced bamboo shoots
1 egg
2-3 tbsps of cornflour (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Handful of coriander

Step 1: soak the shiitake mushrooms and wood ears in boiling water for 1 hour, until they’ve expanded (no need to if using fresh shiitake mushrooms).


Step 2: chop the pork, tofu and shiitake mushrooms into small slices or cubes. The pork and tofu should be no more than 1cm across.


Step 3: with a tiny bit of oil, pan fry the pork until the surface no longer looks pink. No need to cook completely.


Step 4: dissolve the stock cube in 750ml-800ml of water and bring to a boil.


Step 5: drop in the wood ears and bamboo shoots, and boil on high heat for a minute, then drop in the shiitake mushrooms, pork and tofu.


Step 6: add in the salt, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and boil for a further 2 minutes on high heat. Taste and add more salt and vinegar if needed. Turn on to low heat.


Step 7: beat the egg with a dash of water until frothy at the top.


Step 8: pour the egg into the soup, stirring as you pour so that the egg forms strings in the soup.

Step 9: if using cornstarch, then dissolve this in a few tbsps of boiling water until you form a paste with it, then add this to the soup. Stir thoroughly to thicken the soup.


Step 10: add a generous amount of black pepper to taste, garnish with coriander to serve!


You can also use spring onions instead, and add other ingredients such as lily flowers to the mix. Modern versions have also incorporated squid, luncheon meat and seafood sticks, just to name a few. If you want to make a veggie version, then just use vegetable stock and leave out the pork. It’s an extremely flexible recipe – but the end result is always extra warming, don’t you think?


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