Hot and sour soup is the ultimate Chinese takeout staple. And, while many may know it by its numerical label on that tri-fold menu you have stashed in your desk, it's easier than you think to make at home (and worth the effort).
The history of the soup's origin may be blurred, as it's linked to Thai, Szechuan and Chinese-American cuisines, but the complexity of its flavor is unmatched, thanks to spicy pork broth seasoned with vinegar and finished with an array of garnishes, including pork, lily buds, wood ear mushrooms, tofu and bamboo shoots.
Making your own pork stock is not only extremely straightforward, but adds substantial flavor and aromatics you wouldn't find in store-bought. Make it easy on yourself by having your butcher cut the pork bones into 3-inch pieces. When you're preparing the stock, don't be afraid to roast the bones until they're super-brown, as golden brown bones produce a dark, rich stock that is crucial to the meatiness of the soup. And, if you like heat, feel free to go hard on the crushed chile flakes for more fire.
To learn more, read "Culinary Institute: Hot and Sour Soup."
Hot and Sour Soup
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours and 40 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
For the Pork Stock:
2 pounds pork bones
12 cups cold water
5 (½ ounce) dried shiitake mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 scallions, roughly chopped
1 yellow onion, halved
One 2-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
For the Hot and Sour Soup:
½ cup (½ ounce) dried lily buds
½ cup (½ ounce) dried wood ear mushrooms
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Crushed chile flakes, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste, plus more for garnish
6 ounces boneless pork loin, cut into 2-inch by ⅛-inch slices
1 cup (7 ounces) ½-inch cubed soft tofu
½ cup julienned bamboo shoots
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
1. Make the pork stock: Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and add the pork bones. Roast until golden brown, 1 hour. Transfer the bones to a large stockpot, along with the water, dried shiitake mushrooms, garlic, scallions, onion and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook until it's reduced by half, about 2½ hours. Strain the stock, discarding the bones, and return the stock to the pot. Make ahead: Store the stock in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 3 months.
2. In a small bowl, add the dried lily buds and cover with ¾ cup boiling water. Let it sit until soft, 10 minutes, then drain and discard the soaking liquid. In a separate small bowl, add the dried wood ear mushrooms and cover with ¾ cup boiling water. Let sit until soft, 15 minutes, then drain and reserve the soaking liquid. Cut the mushrooms and lily buds into 2-inch pieces and set them aside. Whisk the cornstarch into the mushroom soaking liquid until smooth.
3. Return the pork stock to medium-high heat and bring it to a simmer. Add the Shaoxing wine, red wine vinegar, ground white pepper, red chile flakes and salt. Add the cornstarch slurry and pork. Cook until the pork is tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the reserved mushrooms and lily buds, tofu and bamboo shoots. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, and slowly pour the egg into the broth in a thin stream. Let it sit for 15 seconds, then stir to incorporate.
4. Divide the soup between bowls and garnish it with chile flakes, cilantro leaves and sliced scallions. Serve immediately.