Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Recipe: Hot and Sour Soup

Chinese say Hot & Sour soup helps cure colds and flu, and with our frosty nights, this was the perfect soup to warm us up. No surprise with its name, it is spicy and sour. 

We intentionally chose to make and eat this soup one evening when Elle was not here because she cannot handle spicy foods or sour foods (unless the sour food is a sugar coated gummy :). You can diminish the heat, or diminish a bit of the sour, but if yo do both, you aren't enjoying hot and sour soup. We did not diminish either, though I increased the water content. And for Pea, I gave her the trick I used to do when first introduced to this soup in restaurants - add hot water to your bowl, diluting it. 

Hubby and I loved this soup, and are rather excited to start making it at home more often. But what did Pea think? She was glad for the trick, because she really enjoyed it. I gave her half a bowl and topped it off with hot water. It took her a little longer to eat it, but she wanted to finish it all because she liked it that much. And she never pushes herself to eat something she doesn't like. She even had a second bowl the next day. 

This soup does require time set aside for many of the ingredients to soak, and as with most Chinese dishes, includes a lot of slicing into small pieces. Prep was time consuming, though I doubled a few of the ingredients to freeze and enjoy this soup more quickly next time.

Here's a look at a few of the ingredients:

Dried Lily Buds: The left photograph shows a handful of these buds straight out of the bag, and the bottom right, once it has soaked. These are also known as Golden Needles, and they are indeed dried unopened flowers of the day lily. (I thought it was another type of mushroom until I looked it up) They have been used in China as food and medicine for over 2000 years. They need to be soaked for 20-30 minutes to use them, and the hardened end needs to be cut off. A bag of these was under $2, and since the recipe only calls for 12, I have lots leftover!

Canned bamboo shoots and wood ear mushrooms: bamboo shoots packed in water are perfect, as they are already cut in slivers - slice these strips into small 1/8-1/4 inch pieces. On bottom right are the re-hydrated wood ear mushrooms - the ones I had frozen when I had too many when making Mu Shu Pork. If your wood ear mushrooms come in blocks - one is more than enough! Be sure to cut off the nubby end and slice the rest. 

Full recipe after the  break

Hot & Sour Soup

Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 6-8 as a first course


  • 1/2 cup pork tenderloin, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices (or in our case, one pork chop since that is what we had in the freezer)
  • 1 cup firm tofu, cut into small strips (we used the tofu we had made)
  • 12 dried lily buds
  • 5 dried Chinese black mushrooms
  • 12 dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup canned bamboo slices, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp chili oil 
  • 1/2 cup black rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp white pepper (omit this if you don't want it too spicy, or add more if you want it extra spicy)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 green onions, chopped
1. Soak both mushrooms in one large bowl with enough boiling hot water to cover them. Soak the lily buds in one cup of warm water. These should soak for 20 -30 minutes.

2. While the mushrooms and buds are soaking, cut the tofu and pork, and marinate with the 3 tsp of dark soy sauce.

3. Slice the bamboo and cover with 2 inches of cold water in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil and drain (this is to remove the bitterness).

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, light soy sauce, sugar and salt. 

5. Drain lily buds and trim off the tough ends. Cut the buds in half, then tear them into a few pieces lengthwise. 

6. Drain the mushrooms, reserving 1/4 cup. Discard stems from black mushrooms, and slice thinly. Cut off the nubby ends of wood ear mushrooms, discard, and slice the rest. 

7. Whisk together the reserved mushroom liquid with the cornstarch, and set aside.

8. Heat a pot (or wok) with the chili oil. Don't let it get too hot or the smoke will burn your eyes (that chili kick!). Add pork and tofu and stir fry until pork changes color, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, lily buds, and bamboo and stir fry for 1 minute.

9. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add vinegar mixture. Give the cornstarch mixture a quick stir, and add to the pot. Add the water, and return to a boil while stirring. Once it starts to boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer.

10. Whisk the eggs with the sesame oil. Add the eggs slowly to the soup, while stirring slowly in one direction. If using, stir in white pepper. 

11. Chop the green onions. Serve the soup, and sprinkle with green onions. Make sure to leave space for extra (hot) water if you need to modify the spice :)



  1. You know I always wanted to try and make hot and sour soup myself. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. It was so good, I might be making more soon! Hope you enjoy!


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