Chef John's Hot and Sour Soup


I'm very excited to be sharing what is probably the most delicious soup I still haven't done a video for--unless I have and forgot. Yes, it's hot, and yes, it's sour, but it's also so much more, and other than a little bit of slicing and dicing, this is relatively fast and simple to make. This is almost always served as an appetizer in a Chinese restaurant, but if you added some pork to this, or some little fun-sized meatballs, it would make a fantastic meal. Serve with extra sliced green onions on top.

Prep Time:
20 mins
Cook Time:
30 mins
Additional Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 5 mins
4 servings

I was going to say this fast and easy-to-make hot and sour soup is "better than take-out." But, in fairness, I have no idea how good your friendly neighborhood Chinese restaurant is. So instead of insulting restaurateurs I've never met, I'll just say that in my experience, this soup is way better than the typical offering.

What all hot and sour soups have in common, besides being hot and sour, is their appetite-stimulating addictiveness. Once the spoon hits the bowl, it generally doesn't stop moving until the last drop has been consumed. I've never been a huge fan of soups as an appetizer, since they tend to fill me up, but that's not a problem for this soup. You actually get hungrier with each spoonful.

Feel free to add almost anything else to the ingredient list, as I can't think of a better catch-all for using up forgotten vegetables from the fridge. Adding some pork or little fun-sized meatballs would take it from appetizer to a fantastic meal. But no matter what additions you make, one thing that should not be omitted is the white pepper. It really does magical things here. I'd love to explain them in detail, but I can't. It just does things, and to fully understand what those things are, you're going to have to whip up a batch. Which I hope you do very soon. Enjoy!

closeup of a spoonful of soup in a ceramic spoon over a white ceramic bowl
Chef John

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  • ¾ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste

  • ¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste

  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, or as needed

  • 3 tablespoons water, or as needed

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root

  • ¼ cup sliced green onions

  • 4 cups chicken broth

  • ¼ cup grated carrot

  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced red bell pepper

  • ½ cup bamboo shoots

  • 1 cup cubed tofu

  • 2 large eggs, beaten


  1. Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water, stirring occasionally, until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well and slice into thin strips.

  2. Whisk soy sauce, vinegar, ground white pepper, and sesame oil together in a small bowl for hot and sour mixture; set aside until needed.

  3. Whisk cornstarch and water together in another small bowl for slurry; set aside until needed.

  4. Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add ginger, sliced green onions, and shiitake mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and bring up to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.

  5. Stir in carrot, red pepper, bamboo shoots, tofu, and the hot and sour mixture. Let simmer for 5 minutes.

  6. Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Stir the soup slowly with a spoon while transferring in the beaten eggs in a steady stream to create thin ribbons. Keep stirring until the soup comes back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium.

  7. Stir the cornstarch slurry to make sure it's well blended, then slowly drizzle it into the soup while stirring constantly. Soup should thicken up within 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat, taste for seasoning, and serve.


Chef's Notes:

You can definitely use fresh shiitake mushrooms instead of dried, but dried will give the soup a better flavor. Cold water also works to soften the dried mushrooms, it just takes longer. The amount listed for mushrooms (3/4 ounce) should be about 6 mushrooms.

Use soft tofu for this. Use Chinese black vinegar instead of seasoned rice vinegar if you can find it. You can use a hot red pepper instead of a sweet one.

This will work with a black pepper or cayenne instead of white pepper, but it's just not going to have the same flavor.

Feel free to customize this--add any other thinly sliced vegetables you like when you add the tofu and other veggies.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

193 Calories
9g Fat
19g Carbs
11g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 193
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g 11%
Saturated Fat 2g 8%
Cholesterol 99mg 33%
Sodium 1979mg 86%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 11g
Vitamin C 8mg 41%
Calcium 244mg 19%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 283mg 6%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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