Weeknight Cooking

Joanne Chang's Hot and Sour Soup

December 25, 2013

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 and Sour Soup Recipe 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 doesn't always live up to its name.

Shop the Story

Let's consider the cornstarch. Restaurants and at-home recipes so often use it as a thickener—and yes, it plumps up the broth, but in doing so can put a layer between us and the sour, spicy sting we crave.

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 and Sour Soup Recipe 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't always 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 and Sour Soup Recipe from Food52

Joanne Chang's Hot and Sour Soup Recipe from Food52  Joanne Chang's Hot and Sour Soup Recipe 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 and Sour Soup Recipe rom Food52  Joanne Chang's Hot and Sour Soup Recipe 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 and Sour Soup Recipe 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 and Sour Soup Recipe 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 [email protected]

Listen Now

Join The Sandwich Universe co-hosts (and longtime BFFs) Molly Baz and Declan Bond as they dive deep into beloved, iconic sandwiches.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Akiko
  • JJ-the goldminer
    JJ-the goldminer
  • Andrea
  • Laura
  • jeff
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Akiko February 21, 2015
Super recipe for a cold winter day :) I could warm up my body for whole day. Thank you a lot!
JJ-the G. January 13, 2014
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.
Andrea January 13, 2014
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
Laura January 13, 2014
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!
jeff January 12, 2014
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.
JJ-the G. January 9, 2014
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.com/57948/hot-and-sour-soup.html
Jenny January 9, 2014
Loved it! Perfect soup for my sniffles. Will be my go-to winter soup for sure. Thank you.
Bob F. January 4, 2014
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.
Eileen B. January 2, 2014
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.
dymnyno January 2, 2014
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?
Eileen B. January 1, 2014
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
Diane December 31, 2013
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!
cbrandon2001 December 30, 2013
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!
Amy K. December 26, 2013
This was an excellent recipe. I think it tastes better than anything I have purchased. I used ground chicken instead of pork
whoneedslight December 26, 2013
How long will this keep?
Michele December 26, 2013
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.
Kim1129 January 1, 2014
looks like a SHUN knife
Kim1129 December 26, 2013
Oh,and most importantly, cook the pork for closer to 3 mins. Raw pork IS not desirable. 1 minute is not nearly enough.
Kim1129 December 26, 2013
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!
Lnb December 26, 2013
Not even close. I will leave it @ that.
Sara December 26, 2013
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?
Lnb December 26, 2013
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.
Sara December 26, 2013
Lnb December 26, 2013
Oh, you add the marinated pork when you simmer the soup. Do not sauteed. If you cook the pork too long it gets hard.
Scoobs December 28, 2013
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.
Elizabeth E. January 1, 2014
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?
kimmy11 December 25, 2013
I would love to see her Mother's original recipe as I do have access to an Asian market.