Genius Recipes

Joanne Chang's Hot and Sour Soup

By • December 25, 2013 • 34 Comments

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Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A Chinese restaurant classic strips off its winter coat, and you get the post-holiday soup you've been waiting for.

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

Hot and sour is what we hanker for when we're chilled and worn -- or when we've eaten 8 kinds of potatoes in a week -- but it rarely lives up to its name.

Let's blame the cornstarch. Restaurants and recipes inevitably use it as a thickener, and we accept this without asking why. (What's our problem?) Yes, cornstarch plumps up the broth, but in doing so puts a hazy, viscous layer between us and the sour, spicy sting we crave. Flavors go muddy and dim, like listening to Les Mis with cotton balls in our ears.

Flour, Too
Luckily, Joanne Chang has never been shackled by everyone else's expectations (at Myers + Chang, she makes genius scallion pancakes out of pizza dough). Her mother's version of hot and sour got her off to a good start: "No cornstarch, lots of egg to thicken, really bright and pungent," Chang told me.

More: Another soup to cure the winter blues: Barbara Lynch's Spicy Tomato Soup.

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

She took it further and made it her own, loosening tradition without compromising all that's good about it. She subbed button mushrooms for the traditional wood ear, ground pork for strips of loin, and skipped lily buds and bamboo shoots altogether. "I didn't always have easy access to Asian markets," Chang said. "The important part to me was the broth."

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

And the broth is everything you want it to be, but can never find. Don't get stressed out by the ingredient list -- all the effort is in gathering, and chopping and slicing a few things. Once you start cooking this soup, you're nearly done. Just watch.

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52  Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

First, sauté ground pork in garlic, ginger, and a lot of minced scallions. It's going to smell cozy and cleansing. (If you keep kosher, ground chicken or turkey would be a reasonable substitution, but don't go too lean.)

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52  Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

Pour in chicken broth; warm all that up. Next add your tofu and mushrooms, heat them through too.

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52  Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

Next go in all your hot, sour, and salty seasonings -- Sriracha and soy, rice vinegar and sesame oil, a lot of black pepper.

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52  Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

Whisk in egg while it's still very hot, watch ribbons form and spin through the broth. Done.

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52  Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

So if your bones are cold: Make this soup. If the house is, suddenly, just a little too quiet: Make this soup. If you're looking for comfort and adrenaline and strength: Make this soup.

Joanne Chang's Hot & Sour Soup from Food52

Joanne Chang's Hot and Sour Soup

Adapted slightly from Flour, Too (Chronicle Books, 2013)

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced, plus more for garnish
8 ounces ground pork
4 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 pound soft or firm tofu (not silken and not extra firm), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 or 5 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced (or substitute dried, rehydrated wood ear mushrooms)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste
2 large eggs
White or black pepper for garnish

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at kristen@food52[email protected] 

Tags: joanne chang, everyday cooking, holiday, Chinese food, soup, winter

Comments (34)

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3 months ago JJ-the goldminer

Good for you Andrea!!!!! Bamboo shoots make the soup.regular pork chops well, slice thin then cut the slices into 1/8 strips. I love Hot & Sour, I will be making mine this week. Hope you give my soup a try. Best, JJ-the goldminer. My recipe is posted below on my other comment.

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3 months ago Andrea

I also made a few changes but thank you for being the muse and giving us a great foundation to build from. I used your basics and changed the ground pork to a pork tenderloin that I already had in the freezer and I found a ginger miso broth at trader Joes . I also added a can of bamboo shoots as per another recommendation. It was delicious and I will definitely make again

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3 months ago Laura

Followed directions somewhat, no oil, sugar and only 1 egg and 1/2 tofu called for. It was SO easy and SO good. If you've eaten enough hot and sour soup, you know that the taste varies from place to place. I thought this was an authentic and easy version. Thank you Joanne for a simple and delicious recipe!

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3 months ago jeff

Not really what I'm used to, BUT still very good flavor. Next time I will not use ground pork. It turned out "greasy" and a layer of fat formed the following morning. Felt like I was making stock.

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4 months ago JJ-the goldminer

Hi, actually bamboo shoot is the ingredient that makes the soup have the flavor of the soup. Here is my recipe that rivals the best Hot & Sour from Lee's Asian restaurant. enjoy, Jj. that pic is of the soup I made, picture perfect!!! http://www.grouprecipes...

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4 months ago Jenny

Loved it! Perfect soup for my sniffles. Will be my go-to winter soup for sure. Thank you.

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4 months ago Bob Foster

I'm sorry. This is by no stretch of imagination Hot and Sour Soup. This is a Sweet and Sour (and Hot if you add enough hot) Tofu Egg Drop Soup. It doesn't have the flavor profile of Hot and Sour Soup, nor does it have the usual ingredients, and is way heavy on the tofu. The heat in this soup should come from white pepper, nowhere mentioned. Very disappointing.

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4 months ago Eileen Blanchard

to Dynamo. Please re-read my comment before you post what I feel was a "loaded" question. I clearly said..."We cook and eat Thai food regularly". We live outside the US and ingredients other than local are sometimes hard to come by. We have a couple of THAI restaurants in the region. WE LOVED THE RECIPE !
I read your posts on Food 52 often.

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4 months ago dymnyno

I have eaten many bowls of hot and sour soup, chinese and thai. Could you tell me what are the distinguishing differences between the soup in different cultures?

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4 months ago Eileen Blanchard

My husband had to have this soup! So he made it! It was absolutely the BEST! We cook and eat Thai food frequently and he says it is better then any other hot and sour soup he has eaten. I usually have something more mild but I loved it as well

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4 months ago Diane

This is a great recipe and easy. I think next time would leave out the pork and double the mushrooms! The hot/sour was perfect!

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4 months ago cbrandon2001

The recipe was delicious!! I added water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. I didn't have white pepper but think it would be a nice addition instead of black pepper the next time I make this. A must make recipe in my opinion. Some of the options others have added of course are optional and what's nice about this recipe, you can alter it to your taste and health restrictions. I can't wait to make this again!

Stringio

4 months ago Amy Korn-Reavis

This was an excellent recipe. I think it tastes better than anything I have purchased. I used ground chicken instead of pork

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4 months ago whoneedslight

How long will this keep?

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4 months ago Michele

This soup looks really delicious, love the fact that there is no cornstarch. On a different note - that looks like one serious knife, any ideas as to what it is? I am desperate for a new knife and don't really know where to start. Suggestions would be appreciated.

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4 months ago Kim1129

looks like a SHUN knife

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4 months ago Kim1129

Oh,and most importantly, cook the pork for closer to 3 mins. Raw pork IS not desirable. 1 minute is not nearly enough.

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4 months ago Kim1129

I made this last night but omitted the sugar,Sriracha, and eggs (we are dangerously close to egg drop soup territory). I would also only use 1 Tbsp oil. It was delicious!

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4 months ago Lnb

Not even close. I will leave it @ that.

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4 months ago Sara Blake

I would like to know what you would change. I'd like to make this (it would be my first time) but if it's "not even close" then I don't want to waste my time or ingredients. Suggestions?

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4 months ago Lnb

Sorry, I'm a traditionalist. This is her "take" on the soup. Lose the garlic, ginger, Sriracha, button mushrooms! Soft tofu will fall apart in the soup. Traditionally fine white pepper is used for the heat source NOT Sriracha. Why Sraracha when ground white pepper is commonly available? It gives a deep flavor and warmth that is called for. Should be Chinese black vinegar if not available use combo of wine vinegar and balsamic. Button mushrooms is NOT a sub for shitake. It's the flavor of the shitake that is required for the soup. No ground pork either, use a porkchop cut into 1/4" match stick size. Marinate in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch for NO more than 30 minutes.

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4 months ago Sara Blake

Thanks!!

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4 months ago Lnb

Oh, you add the marinated pork when you simmer the soup. Do not sauteed. If you cook the pork too long it gets hard.

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4 months ago Scoobs

No cornstarch is a good thing. Yes, garlic and ginger are not common but I like them. No ground pork! Tree ear mushroom I believe is the common one used. Black pepper? That’s odd and risky if a guest gets it stuck to the back of the throat. White pepper is a must. Sriracha? Why not chopped red peppers? Also, where are the crispy things like bamboo shoots that are common? Yeah, soft tofu would break up.

This is a simple recipe that deserves an OK for people with a light Chinese pantry. Not for me.

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4 months ago Elizabeth Ellis

And for those of us who do not use pork (or seafood) do you think we could use chicken or turkey? Ground or as you described in strips?

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4 months ago kimmy11

I would love to see her Mother's original recipe as I do have access to an Asian market.

Stringio

4 months ago Kuan-Lin Connie Wang

I prefer to use black vinegar. Rice vinegar is too "sweet" for me. White pepper over black pepper. Shitake mushrooms and straw mushrooms over white button mushrooms. I add woodear, exclude the stock - the pork imparts enough flavor on the soup.