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hot and sour soup

Recipe: hot and sour soup

I have a tiny, old recipe book that my mom’s house mother (in grad school) printed in 1974. Several years later, Mrs. Li sent a couple of copies to my mom who in turn passed them along to me and Kris. I love this book. The binding is half-missing and the pages are stained, but it contains 100 authentic Chinese recipes. I tend to be a visual person and I am a total whore for cookbooks plastered with glossy pictures, but this modest book is a simple black and white with a few line drawings to illustrate the more complex steps. Next to my parents and my grandma, this book has taught me how to cook some traditional Chinese favorites. Imagine my delight the first time I tried the hot and sour soup recipe. The kind you get in Chinese restaurants is typically heavy on the cornstarch and very light on the goodies – not so with this version.

you can find tiger lily buds in asian markets

i used dried shitakes, a staple in my pantry

The version I make is flexitarian because I use chicken broth (which can easily be replaced with vegetable broth for a vegetarian version). I don’t use pork or chicken meat in the soup. I find it to be pretty satisfying texture-wise with all of the vegetables and tofu and egg.

rehydrating lily buds in hot water

squeezed out and lined up – cut the woody tips off

Some ingredients may not be readily available at any old grocery store and you might need to make a trip to a local Asian market. However, I find that stores like Whole Foods and even my local Safeway stock canned bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and sometimes fresh shitake and fresh enoki mushrooms.

fresh enoki mushrooms – cut the base off

chop chop: bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, tofu, shitake, lily buds, enoki

The beauty of hot and sour soup is that you can mix and match the ingredients as you please. For me, the essentials are the lily buds, shitakes, bamboo shoots, and egg. Everything else is like icing on the cake. A little white pepper and vinegar (the hot and sour, respectively) before serving and you’re done, superstar!

into the pot

stirring in the egg

full of goodness

Hot and Sour Soup
[print recipe]
adapted from Chinese Cooking in American Kitchens by Ming Li

1/2 cup cloud ears (aka wood ears or tree fungus) *I was too lazy to add these this time
1/2 cup tiger lily buds
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup pork or chicken strips (optional)
1 cup tofu, cut into 1-inch strips
1/2 cup water chestnuts, cut into strips
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, in strips
1 cup enoki mushrooms with base removed
3 eggs, beaten
2 tbsps cornstarch (add more if you want a thicker broth)
3/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsps vinegar (I prefer red wine vinegar)
6 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp soy sauce

If the cloud ears, lily buds, and shitake mushrooms are dried, rehydrate them separately in hot water for 30 minutes. When the lily buds are soft, remove the hard tips. When the cloud ears and mushrooms are soft, wash them free of any sandy particles. Cut the lily buds into 1-inch lengths. Cut the cloud ears coarsely. Squeeze the mushrooms out and cut off the stems. Cut the mushrooms into thin strips to match the size of the lily buds. Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water and set aside.

Heat the broth in a soup pot and add any meat if you are using it. Bring the broth to a boil. Add the cloud ears, lily buds, and shitake mushrooms and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sliced tofu, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, enoki mushrooms, and soy sauce and let return to boil. Reduce heat, stir cornstarch mixture into soup, stirring constantly. Let it return to a boil. Stir in beaten egg slowly while it cooks into long threads. Add pepper, sesame oil, and vinegar. Serve hot.

34 nibbles at “hot and sour soup”

  1. peabody says:

    Welcome to the joys of blogging. My photos get stolen all the time. I tried watermarking but they would just chop that out. It’s annoying, luckily all the ones I have caught now at least link it to my site. However the ones that really drive me crazy actually steal my photo and then claim it is thiers…GRRRRR.
    Sorry this is happening to you, it is no fun.

  2. Personal trainer says:

    Great photographs..
    Cool recipes…skillfully narrated

  3. Becky says:

    Reading about this recipe made me really homesick for Chinese food. (I’m a college student stuck with dining hall fodder.) Love your photography.

  4. Skavoovee says:

    Wow, this looks so good! Next time I can make it out to Maido I’m definitely going to be making this!

  5. Hande says:

    You are so right about gingerbreadgirl03, I have already submitted 4 of her “wrong” posts for removal, but they are still there! I thought someone at tastespotting is editing the submissions and at least checking if the picture is from the post where the links goes to… I wonder why some of my perfectly normal submissions never show up?

  6. Shandy says:

    WoW! Your Sweet and Sour Soup is a must try and your pictures are beautiful… I am just learning how to blog and I have to say that you have a fantastic looking blog. Thank you for sharing pictures that a person could almost taste. Did I mention WoW!?

    Shandy :D

  7. Maryann says:

    gingerbreadgirl03 stole my photos as well, then she took it upon herself to crop them the way she wished! Tastespotting removed them as per my request, but it’s very frustrating. Tastespotting informs their users how to swipe pics off off other peoples blogs. That’s wrong in my book. So I didnt take them up on the offer to post my own photos. I just think that they should be supportive of food bloggers (where they get all of their material). Sorry it happened to you.

  8. jenyu says:

    Peabody – yup, it’s a pain to track. I have hotlinking turned off, but that doesn’t stop some twerp from taking the image and doing as they please. I thought of watermarking, but I think it detracts from the image. So much for relying on the decency of others ;)

    PT – thanks!

    Becky – thank you and I hope you get a good dose of home cooking soon :)

    Skavoovee – it’s really pretty simple to make aside from all of the rehydrating and chopping!

    Hande – I hear ya. Tastespotting’s overlord seems to be pretty lacksidasical about checking these basic things (whether the picture matches the post). It’s annoying. And yes, I too have had random submissions disappear into the ether for no apparent reason. Frustrating. I basically chalk it up to someone not taking the task very seriously at all.

    Shandy – thanks for the compliments and good luck on developing your blog!

    Maryann – I think it’s okay to snarf images if you link back to where you snarfed the images from (seeing as the web is pretty much public). However, I really feel there is a dishonesty to snarfing an image and then pointing it elsewhere and without any credit to the original photo. I can’t tell if GBG03 is just mentally very thick or a lazy thief, but I saw she did it again this morning and it was removed (someone must have complained, was it you or Hande?). They should ban her ass.

  9. peabody says:

    So I went on Tastespotting and she is taking my photos too…but all the ones that I could find she at least linked back to my site.

  10. Maryann says:

    hmm..I’ll have to check that.
    If you were a painter and someone took scissors and cut up your painting because it didn’t fit into their frame, would you mind? What if you made your living as an artist? My point is, I believe that the artist is the only one who should alter their own work.( ps. not saying the artist is me) And what happened to common courtesy of asking before taking. If you read Tastespotting’s help page it says ..sure steal and copy away! Then cut it up while youre at it!
    They have a good concept but there should only be submissions by the blog author themselves, I believe. That leaves the control and permission in the owners hands. Just my 2 cents. I’m not so desparate about stats that I’ll alter what I think is right and wrong. Great discussion.

  11. Hande says:

    I have to say I find Tastespotting perfectly ok. I also have no problem with it if someone likes an entry of mine (has happened before) and posts it on tastespotting, as long as the link goes to my original post. As to cropping, well, tastespotting pictures do have the format of 250×250, so if the poster doesn’t do it, it is done automatically. I think of it not as someone cutting your original painting but putting a picture of it in a catalogue or something, where people get a first glimpse of something (the pic doesn’t even have to be perfect if the subject behind it interests me) and can go over and read the real thing. Tastespotting as rss, in a way, only is has been edited/reviewed by other food interested person.
    What I find unacceptable is when the pic and the link behind it don’t match. Ok, it might happen once, you copy and paste and made a mistake. But that “mistake” happens too often when gbg3 posts, so I am slowly beginning to think it might be on purpose and it is just some pr agency or the like, trying to push some specific stuff hidden in-between correct links.

  12. jenyu says:

    Peabody – yeah, I saw some of yours and they were all in order :)

    Well Maryann, the web is tough to police. By the very nature of viewing images on a browser, the individual has already copied the image. I agree that it isn’t nice to do what GBG03 is doing, but *my* only request is that she link appropriately. And as someone who has a toe in the sphere of living as an artist (landscape photography), I have had to wrestle with the idea of posting my photos online and in public forums. I can’t prevent people from taking my images, but luckily they cannot take those images and print them from a low res web copy. That said, when I sell a print, it is up to the buyer what to do with it. And I totally agree that common courtesy is what most decent people try to operate on, which is why this person’s inconsiderate actions have some of us in a huff. But I feel that the premise of Tastespotting is overall, a friendly type of sharing of information – this is the beauty of the web.

    Hande – I think you and I see TS similarly. I didn’t think of GBG03 as perhaps being an agency, although you make a very interesting point… Ah well, I’m trying to give her/them/him the benefit of the doubt, but… hard to do when it happens over and over. Glad TS has responded to you and let’s hope we see some changes!

  13. Maryann says:

    That’s my point. When you SELL a print. Sure, if the site wants to pay for the work, they can do whatever they want with it. Tastespotting has ads while not paying for or asking permission for the content from bloggers.
    If they had no ads on their site I would agree with you. But to me they are unfriendly.

  14. Abby says:

    Hi! Beautiful blog and photos.

    Gingerbrat is doing the same thing to me. But mine have been posted back to my site.

    For some reason I’ve found that photos *I* submit don’t always get posted to Tastespotting, but when Gingerbrat does it they DO get posted.

    V. interesting. Don’t you think?

  15. Hande says:

    Abby, exactly, the same happens to me, too! Maybe we should ask the guys and girls at tastespotting.

  16. Hande says:

    She even gets to post doubles (see 4694 and 4643). Isn’t she checked at all? Where are the posts we (I know at least of Abby, Jen and myself) try to make and that never come up?

  17. Maryann says:

    The food editor at Tastespotting believes in copyright protection. I copied this off of her blog.
    “All content on this website (including photographs, text, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License and may not be reproduced without expressed written consent”
    OK, so it applies to only her, but not us. That’s interesting to me. You’ll notice this same occurance everywhere. The people who take material protect their own.
    They want you to think, “Wow. tastespotting thought my photos were good enough to appear there!” So, you let it slide because of, dare I say it, vanity.
    Also, I suspect there are employees that gather photos for notcot who get a free pass as Hande has alluded to.
    The hot and sour soup post here is great and the photos are fab BTW. Something I forgot to mention while joining the rant.

    So, that’s my opinion, but hey! Live and let live. Everyone is free to do what they wish with their own work. If you don’t value it, then give it away for free and let others make money off of it.

  18. jenyu says:

    Sorry I’ve been out of the loop – I suddenly fell very very ill.

    Hande – it might be worth it to ask about why our submissions don’t go through. I suspect it really has to do with incompetence more than diliberate censorship.

    Abby – thanks and welcome to the fray :)

    Maryann – I think the majority of people who buy into Tastespotting want to share their blog and information. I think it’s flip to accuse people who post to TS as not valuing what they produce. What about folks who comment and join discussions on sites like It’s a forum for exchange and it’s free to use, but to run something like that requires resources.

  19. brilynn says:

    I had one of my photos stolen and claimed as someone elses as well, and they too put it with a recipe that was not at all the same. When I asked them to remove it, they did, but the whole thing just pissed me off. Some people don’t think it’s a big deal, but with the amount of time and effort bloggers put into putting up posts, it IS a big deal. I really don’t care if people use my stuff if they credit me accordingly, but to claim it as their own is a jerk move.

    Anyways, enough of my rant too, the soup sounds delicious!

  20. jenyu says:

    Brilynn – I know what you mean. It’s akin to feeling somewhat violated, even if it is just a picture – it’s intellectual property.

  21. Maryann says:

    A little update about Tastespotting. I see that they have now changed the wording of their policies to include and address the issues I commented on here. I’m very happy about it. It can only mean success for their fairly new venture and cause more goodwill between them and the food blogging community.

  22. Hot and sour soup recipes - ChefTalk Cooking Forums says:

    […] to thicken, then add more slurry as necessary to achieve your desired thickness. Here’s the link: use real butter

  23. Elisabetta says:

    Hi jenyu!
    Great blog, great photos, great posts, great recipes… And I found out you blog through Tastespotting! I understand your concerns, and maybe it wasn’t only yours, because Tastespotting quitted operating yesterday.
    As a tastespotting-addicted reader I mourn the loss, I visited the site just at least once a day (and sometimes planned my meals out of it!!) but now I understand there is more that meets the eye… maybe TS editors should have better planned their policies.
    Keep up the great work!

  24. christi says:

    Isn’t there a way that TS can manage how recipe photos get posted – perhaps by only allowing registered and confirmed posters to post photos from their own site? A surfer who finds a great food photo will then have to try to convince the original poster to sign up and share their work. I write a blog and use photos from other website to illustrate my posts. In the old days, I wrote each person/company to ask for permission, but it took so long to get responses and no one ever said no. Now I just fully attribute and link and cross my fingers. I hope a compromise can be reached and TS is once again.

  25. jenyu says:

    E – thank you and yes, I mourn the loss of TS too, they were awesome and I found so many great recipes and blogs there.

    Christi – I’m unclear on what the legal issues were for TS to shut down, but there are already folks who are sprouting up new versions. My bud, Chuck, of SND has started which is great!

  26. Michael says:

    Thank U So Much for Amazing cooking direction and nice pictures!

  27. jenyu says:

    Michael – you’re very welcome!

  28. Thomas says:

    When i first started making this soup from my family recipe, i would end up with cloudy soup because the egg always breaks up into very fine bits. I found that you would get better results with larger chunks of egg (as it should be) if you just pour the egg on top in large chunks or drops and let it sit. once it is cooked, it will fall into the soup and leave you with nice clear soup with large egg chunks instead of a cloudy egg soup. Just a thought.

  29. jenyu says:

    Thomas – thanks.

  30. Hot and Sour Soup | Cate's World Kitchen says:

    […] Recipe: (adapted from Use Real Butter) […]

  31. John says:

    Love your site and wondering if you would share the name of the cookbook you mention. Thank you for all you do!

  32. jenyu says:

    John – it’s listed in the recipe, just under the title.

  33. Stacey says:

    Hey Jen! I really want to make this soup, but I have a question… what kind of tofu do you use? I don’t know a lot about tofu, so i don’t know what kind would be best in this soup.. would I use a silken, soft, or firm tofu? Thanks so much!

  34. jenyu says:

    Stacey – I use soft or firm tofu. I never use silken – that stuff will just turn to mush in the soup. Soft will break apart as you stir the soup, but retain some sort of shape. Firm is also fine. It’s all a matter of preference. Enjoy!

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