Chinese culinary traditions are incredibly rich and complex. The vast Chinese territory leads to different cuisines according to the regions and the cantons, but there are traditional recipes that are unique to the whole country.
How to make hot and sour soup
The basic hot and sour soup recipe is a thickened broth, seasoned with white pepper and chili, flavored with white or black rice vinegar and soy sauce, and containing egg, fragrant mushroom pieces, ginger, and bamboo shoots, tofu, and meat (pork or poultry). It is often found on the menu of Chinese restaurants.
The combination of white pepper and rice vinegar creates a special pungent flavor. The key to the success of this delicious soup is the ratio of vinegar, soy sauce and white pepper.
What is the origin of hot and sour soup?
Hot and sour soup is not from Beijing, but from the Sichuan Province. It is a staple at all the Chinese restaurants in the world. Literally “peppered vinegar soup” (酸辣 汤 / suānlà tāng) is a dish of Sichuan cuisine that consists of a thickened broth, seasoned with black pepper and hot pepper, flavored with vinegar.
The first traces of hot and sour soup date from the Warring States period in the areas of Henan, Hebei, Sichuan, northern China, and the southern region of Shandong. Over time and according to regions and practices, the ingredients have varied and evolved, but the predominant taste is essentially the same everywhere. Everywhere, the soup is hot and sour.
What are the variants of hot and sour soup?
Similar soups are found in other Asian countries.
In Vietnam, canh chua (literally “sour soup”) is prepared from fish from the Mekong River or shrimp, pineapple, tomatoes and soy sprouts. It is flavored with tamarind and lemon leaves.
In Cambodia, samlor machu pkong or “shrimp stew sour” is a shrimp-based sour soup mainly flavored with lemon and pepper.
Samlar yuans machu is another hot and sour soup that is popular in Cambodia. It is prepared from fried or grilled catfish that is then added to the broth.
In Thailand, tom yum is a soup that is flavored with lemongrass, lemongrass leaves, galangal root, fish sauce and hot pepper.
In the Philippines, sinigang is a soup that is characterized by its bitter and salty taste more often associated with tamarind.
The importance of soup in Chinese cuisine
In a good Chinese meal, soups never fail. They are an integral part of meals whether for simple family meals or party banquets.
Contrary to what happens on European tables, for example, soup does not start the meal, but it is usually served after rice or noodle dishes, as a conclusion and final act of a menu.
Hot and sour soup is often prepared in large quantities and then consumed for several days during the meal, between dishes.
What is tofu?
Tofu is a food of Chinese origin, prepared from the curdling of soy milk. It is an ingredient found in most Far Eastern countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
The manufacturing process is very simple: dry soybeans are hydrated, then ground into a paste that is then heated, filtered, coagulated and pressed.
The coagulant may be magnesium chloride (nigari in Japanese), calcium sulphate, calcium chloride or even lemon juice. The commercially produced tofu is then pasteurized.
During filtration, a by-product of tofu is recovered: it is okara.
Shades in the method of preparation, for example in filtration or pressing, make it possible to produce different types of tofu.
An important component of Asian diets, tofu comes in many forms. It is now very popular in Western countries, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
Depending on the amount of water that is extracted from curdled tofu, fresh tofu can be divided into three main categories:
This tofu can accompany all your preparations and fit into salads, and it is even more delicious with a little lemon juice. It can be fried, cooked, it can also be added, marinated or not, as a protein, to a stew of vegetables halfway through cooking. It can be eaten mixed with soups.
Smoked tofu is great in vegetable pies or salads, diced or crushed.
It is a softer and creamier tofu than firm tofu, its taste is very sweet. It must be handled with care because it crumbles easily.
It is useful in many preparations and is an ally of vegan desserts to prepare for example chocolate fondant, vegan “cheesecake”, terrines, entremets, puddings. It can be eaten mixed with soups.
Melting and tasty, lacto-fermented tofu has a texture that resembles that of feta cheese. It can be enjoyed as is or cooked.
It is found in sandwiches, salads, spreads, or pickled cubes. Note that lacto-fermentation is a process that does not include dairy products and is present in many preparations, for example sauerkraut also undergoes lactic fermentation.
As for the word “tofu”, its origin is Japanese and comes from the word tōfu, which itself derives from Chinese dòufu and means “rotted bean”.
I prepared this soup at the request of a young epicurean named Talia. She is the daughter of my friends Shira and Ilan. Yes, the same friends from my Burmese mohinga soup. We tasted this delicious hot and sour soup with the family, in joy and good humor!
- 3 chicken thighs
- 4 oz tofu
- 6 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon chili pepper paste
- 6 teaspoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 eggs , beaten
- 2 oz shiitake mushrooms , dried
- 2 oz black mushrooms (or wood ear mushrooms), dried
- 1 (1-inch) piece ginger , coarsely grated
- 4 oz. bamboo shoots
- 2 scallions , minced
- 1 small bunch cilantro , chopped
- Soak the mushrooms in lukewarm water for 30 minutes to rehydrate them. Wash and drain.
- Cook the chicken in 6 cups of salted boiling water over medium-high heat for 20 minutes. Drain the chicken and filter the broth using a fine colander. Let cool.
- Dice chicken, tofu, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in a portion of the cold stock and mix well.
- Bring the remaining stock to a boil.
- Add mushrooms, tofu, soy sauce and ginger, and cook on medium heat. Stir for 30 seconds and add the chicken.
- Stir well and add the rice vinegar, chili pepper paste, and sugar.
While stirring, gradually add the diluted cornstarch mixture and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the beaten egg gently, stirring continuously for 1 minute.
- Finally add the freshly ground pepper and the sesame oil and stir well for 15 seconds.
Turn off the heat and finish with scallion and cilantro.