Friday, January 25, 2013

Hot and sour, hold the fungus

This soup starts out just a little bit spicy.  Pass around the white pepper so each person can turn up the heat with just a flick of a wrist.

When I was growing up, my mom would make us a huge pot of hot and sour soup only on special occasions, like for a big dinner party.  Yummm – I would get so excited because this didn’t happen often.  I think it’s because each pot required a lot of work, and a lot of Chinese delicacies.  Delicacies, such as “cloud ear fungus” (“moo-ar”, in Chinese).  Yes, I agree --- in English or Chinese, it sounds equally gross.  But when you’re 7 years old, you have no idea that the black, curly, rubbery leafy thing in your soup is fungus.  And if I did question it, my parents would just say, “Eat it. It’s good for you.”  So down the hatch it went.  Anyhow, the soup was so tasty, it just didn’t matter.

I dragged the Dragon Lady back into the kitchen with me this week to adapt the recipe to be more user-friendly, and more appetite-friendly (hence, no fungus).  All the ingredients we use in this recipe can be found at your local grocery store, so you don’t have to venture out to any specialty stores (or rain forests or caves) to find any mysterious "delicacies".  Also, no monosodium glutamate (MSG) here either.  Often times, when I’ve had hot and sour soup in Chinese restaurants, I have instantly felt my heart start beating faster because of that unhealthy, magical powder.

So now we can all make hot and sour soup any time we want.  No special occasions necessary.  No MSG necessary.  No fungus necessary.  Unless you want it, of course.  Because I’m sure it really is good for you.


No adventurous ingredient-hunting required:  everything for
 this recipe can be found in your regular grocery store.

Slice the pork tenderloin and tofu into very thin strips, about 1/8” thick.
Serves 8-10
½ pounds pork tenderloin, sliced into thin strips (about 1/8”)
1 ½ teaspoons + 6 tablespoons corn starch, divided
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cooking wine (or red or white wine) optional
64 ounces chicken broth (2 cartons) I prefer Swanson’s
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon white pepper
¾ cup white vinegar
5 ounce can bamboo shoot strips, drained
8 ounce can straw mushrooms, drained, coarsely chopped
14 ounces fresh tofu, sliced into thin strips (about 1/8”)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot chili sauce

In a small bowl, combine pork tenderloin strips, 1 ½ teaspoons of the corn starch, and the soy sauce and wine.  Mix well and set aside. 

In a large soup pot, combine chicken broth, white pepper and vinegar.  Reserve ½ cup of broth mixture; set aside.  Over medium-high heat, bring the pot of remaining broth mixture to a simmer.  Add bamboo shoots, mushrooms and tofu.  Increase heat to high.  When mixture is boiling, add pork tenderloin; stir constantly to separate the small pieces of pork.  Reduce heat to simmer.

Mix the remaining 6 tablespoons corn starch with the ½ cup broth reserve, add to soup pot. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until soup starts to thicken, about 3-4 minutes. Continue to stir the simmering soup while simultaneously adding the beaten egg in a thin, steady stream.  Stir in Sriracha hot chili sauce. 

Serve hot.  Pass additional white pepper to make it extra-spicy, if desired.
*Note:  Have more time on your hands?  Dried shiitake mushrooms can be substituted for the straw mushrooms.  Pre-soak the shiitakes the night before, and slice into 1/8” strips.

Have less time?  Ground pork can be substituted for the thin strips of pork tenderloin.


  1. Thank you for your recipes! I've tried many at restaurants but didn't have a clue how to make them...until now :)

  2. I have missed your recipes and writing. I love the stories that go with each recipe and have loved all of the dishes that I have made. Thank you!!!