Hot and sour soup (酸辣汤)

One of the most popular Chinese soup dishes, hot and sour soup stands out for its tangy flavour, pleasurable texture and warming nature.


One of my blog readers recently asked me if I have a recipe for Hot and Sour Soup (酸辣汤). Surely I have! It’s one of the soup dishes I grew up with in China. Pungent, warming, flavoursome and full of texture, it makes an enjoyable dish on cold winter days. I often have it with some bread for a simple lunch, or serve it as part of a traditional Chinese feast.

A filling soup with great flavour

Apart from seasoning, you can find three protein (pork, tofu, egg) and five vegetable (bamboo shoot, carrot, shiitake mushroom, wood ear, lily buds) ingredients in hot and sour soup. They provide different flavour, texture and nutrition, making this dish sophisticated and substantial.

Shiitake mushroom (香菇), wood ear (木耳) and lily buds (黄花) are unique to Chinese / Asian cooking. They usually come in dried form therefore need to be soaked beforehand. In terms of tofu, I suggest you use the soft type (but not the silken one). Its smooth, slippery texture really makes the soup extra enjoyable.

It’s very easy to cook

The cooking of hot and sour soup is very straightforward. These are the simple steps:

  1. Cut pork, carrot, bamboo shoot, shiitake mushroom, wood ear, lily buds and tofu into thin strips.
  2. Fry pork and all the vegetables in a little oil.
  3. Pour in water and boil for a couple of minutes. Then add corn starch and water mixture.
  4. Slide in tofu, then pour in the beaten egg.
  5. Turn off the heat. Add all the seasoning, then garnish.

How to make it hot & sour?

Needless to say, hot and sour flavour is the selling point of this classic soup. Its pungent taste really awakes all your taste buds and makes it a great dish for winter days. I’ve noticed, however, some people who enjoy hot and sour soup in restaurants have no idea where the spiciness comes from. “I don’t see any chilli in it.” they might say.

Unlike the famous Sichuan hot and sour glass noodle soup (酸辣粉) which calls for chilli oil, hot & sour soup uses ground white pepper to spicy it up. The sourness comes from Chinese rice vinegar. I personally prefer black rice vinegar to the white one as the former has a more intense aromatic taste. The amount of white pepper and vinegar suggested in my recipe is what works best for me. Please feel free to adjust it to your own taste.

Add the key flavour at the very end

To get the pungent hot and sour taste, make sure you add vinegar and white pepper right before serving as prolonged heating reduces the intensity of the flavour. You can either add these two ingredients to the soup right before you dish it out from the cookware, or add them in each serving bowl then pour the soup in. The second way allows you to adjust the level of hot and sour taste based on each diner’s liking.

Hot and sour soup (酸辣汤)
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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2-3 servings

Hot and sour soup (酸辣汤)

One of the most popular Chinese soup dishes, hot and sour soup stands out for its tangy flavour, pleasurable texture and warming nature.


    For step 1:
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon mince ginger
  • 50g / 1.7oz pork, julienned
  • 30g / 1oz carrot, julienned
  • 30g / 1oz shiitake mushroom, julienned (soaked, 7g in dried form)
  • 30g / 1oz wood ear, julienned (soaked, 3g in dried form)
  • 30g / 1oz bamboo shoot, julienned
  • 20 strands lily buds
    For step 2:
  • 800ml / 3.5cups hot water
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch + 3 tablespoons water
    For step 3:
  • 100g / 3.5oz soft tofu, julienned
  • 1 egg, beaten
    For step 4:
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons black rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Coriander, chopped


  1. Heat up the oil in a wok / pot. Stir in pork and ginger. Add carrot, shiitake mushroom, wood ear, bamboo shoot & lily buds when the pork becomes pale. Fry for 1 minute or so.
  2. Pour in hot water. Leave to boil for 2 minutes covered with a lid. Then add the corn starch and water mixture (stir well before pouring) in a few batches while stirring.
  3. Gently slide in tofu. Then pour in the beaten egg. Mix well.
  4. Turn off the heat. Add soy sauce, salt, sugar and sesame oil. Right before serving, add black rice vinegar, white pepper (see note 1). Garnish with coriander.


1. For best flavour, make sure to add black rice vinegar and white pepper at the very end of the cooking process. If you are not going to serve the soup straightaway, leave out these two ingredients and add them when the soup is reheated and to be served immediately.

2. If you wish to make a Vegetarian Version of this dish, you can omit the pork. For a richer flavour, use vegetable stock (unsalted) instead of water.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope I have inspired you to make this hot and sour soup. If you are looking for winter soup ideas, have a look at the following recipes:

Egg drop soup with tomato (番茄蛋汤)

Tofu soup with dried shrimp (虾皮豆腐汤)

Happy cooking!

An enthusiastic cook with a Chinese palate and a global mindset.

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