Picture of Hot and Sour Soup
Here it is, hold onto your hats, the best hot and sour soup recipe I've come across.

It involves a lot of steps, but it's not really that hard, just follow along and calmly work it. The original recipe came from Cook's Illustrated, but I've adapted it, enough, I hope, to call it my own. I use chicken instead of pork and since I am gluten-free, I use Tamari instead of regular soy sauce, as it has no wheat in it.

You'll want to get all your ingredients organized, lined up and measured out since some of the steps have a few sub-steps. It's well worth it, so hang in and have fun.

Important Note: 
Read the entire recipe all the way through first, please. You will need a bunch of small and medium bowls for this process. So grab them as you are reading and it should help start you off on the right foot.

Hot and Sour Soup 
adapted from Cooks Illustrated, 5/2006
  • 4 tablespoons tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch , plus an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and cubed (see below for directions)
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 1 inch by 1/8-inch matchsticks
  • 3 tablespoons cold water , plus 1 additional teaspoon
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms , stems removed, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons black Chinese vinegar or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (see note above)
  • 2 teaspoons chili oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3 medium scallions , sliced thin
First, drain the tofu: 
  • Take the tofu out of the container, put it into a shallow pie plate (or any dish with a short rim). 
  • Then, put a plate on top, and press down hard. Place two or three cans on top of the plate (I used canned beans) and leave to drain for about 15 minutes. Add more time if the tofu still appears soggy when you check it.
  • You'll know when it's ready to be cubed when the liquid has pooled at the bottom of the dish and the tofu appears much drier than it had been, but not super dried out.
  • Dice the tofu into cubes and set aside (though it's likely the broth will be simmered and ready by the time you've cubed your tofu).
Next Marinate the Chicken:
  • Whisk in a medium bowl:
    • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
    • Sesame oil
    • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Thoroughly mix the chicken strips in the marinade and leave to soak for about 10 to 20 minutes.
  • The meat will become silky and somewhat fatter than it was when you began.
And Then:
  • Combine:
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 3 tablespoons water in small bowl and mix thoroughly
    • Set aside, leaving spoon in bowl. 
  • Mix:
    • Remaining 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
    • Remaining 1 teaspoon water in small bowl
    • Add egg and beat with fork until combined. Set aside.
Start Putting it Together:
  • In a large heavy-bottomed pan, bring the chicken broth to a boil.
  • Once the broth has boiled, lower the heat to medium-low and:
    • Add mushrooms.
    • Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are nice and tender.  
  • Add:
    • Tofu and chicken, including marinade, to soup, stirring.
    • Continue to simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes.
Almost Done:
  • Remember the mixture you made that you left the spoon in? It's time to stir it and make it more liquid now.
  • Add to soup and increase heat to medium-high.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens and turns translucent, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in:
    • vinegar (either the Chinese Black Vinegar, or the combo of Balsamic and red wine vinegar)
    • chili oil
    • white pepper
    • remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Turn off heat.
Make the Egg Drops:
  • Get your egg mixture (the last bowl, I hope, that you have left with something you mixed earlier) and grab a spoon.
  • Do not stir the soup, make sure it's still when you start this next step.
  • Take your spoon and scoop up a bit of it into your spoon.
  • Very slowly, like you are just hanging out and not in any kind of rush, start drizzling the egg mixture over the soup, moving around the pot in a clockwise motion.
  • Let rest for a bit, about a minute.
  • Bring soup back up to a gentle boil over medium heat.

Serve it Up:
  • Remove from heat and give the soup a light stir, just enough to break up the egg drops, but not so fiercely that the nice thickness that the cornstarch leant to the mix.
  • Ladle into bowls and top with scallions. 

Enjoy and savor the flavors and textures of this soup!
gytty3 years ago
Very nicely done.
taaminator3 years ago
This is an excellent recipe!

The instructions are clear, detailed, and unambiguous.

The result is outstanding.

The listed ingredients make a significant flavor difference. Shitake mushrooms and Chinese black vinegar have distinctly different flavors from other mushrooms and other vinegars.

I made a vegetarian version with non-shitake mushrooms and other vegetables – and flavors were missing.

Great recipe! Thank you!
westfw3 years ago
"Chinese Black Vinegar. It's the secret ingredient for the flavor in this dish."
+1 agreement! Search for it, it does make a significant difference!
nonreactivepan (author)  westfw3 years ago
and, it's really affordable, too. totally worth it.
Tofu? Where's it called out?
nonreactivepan (author)  Doc Holliday3 years ago
Oh boy, so sorry, I totally forgot to add the Tofu into the ingredients list.
It's in there now, 8 ounces, drained and cubed. Thanks!!
Stuff happens.

Do you use firm Chinese tofu, or soft Japanese?

Of course there's always "in-between", but I prefer firm.

Excellent recipe.

I suggest a mixture of 'shrooms: consider Enoke, Forest, Crimini, etc
nonreactivepan (author)  Doc Holliday3 years ago
I've been using extra firm, and I think it's Chinese.
I'll try the mix next time!
nonreactivepan (author)  Doc Holliday3 years ago
Thanks for the question. The tofu is in the first step of the recipe, where you drain and cube it. It gets added toasted the end. Hope this helps!
This looks quite yummy. I think I'll try this recipe next time my boyfriend gets sick - this is what he always wants!
nonreactivepan (author)  jessyratfink3 years ago
excellent idea, no matter how sick I am, I always drag myself to the kitchen to make this and it always makes me feel better.
katydot3 years ago
So good and beautifully presented, I could almost taste it! Kudos Non-Reactive Pan!