Published January 1, 2006.
Spicy, bracing, rich, and complex, this classic Chinese soup has all the trappings of a full day in the kitchen. Not bad for a 20-minute dish.
Authentic versions of this soup have some hard-to-find ingredients such as mustard pickle, pig's-foot tendon, and dried sea cucumber--ingredients we couldn't find in the local grocery store.
Using only inventory from our local supermarket, we wanted an authentic take on hot and sour soup, including spicy, bracing, pungent, elements.
We created the "hot" side of the soup with two heat sources--a full teaspoon of distinctive, penetrating white pepper and a little chili oil. Creating the "sour" side presented more challenges. The traditional sour component in this soup is Chinese black vinegar, a low-acid vinegar with a distinctive flavor. For a workable substitute, we settled on a tablespoon each of balsamic and red wine vinegar, (though we still recommend seeking out Chinese black vinegar, which is available at most Asian markets). Cornstarch turned out to be a key ingredient; it plays three roles in this recipe: A cornstarch-based slurry thickened the soup; adding cornstarch to the pork marinade gave the pork a protective sheath that kept it tender; and beating the egg with cornstarch before drizzling it into the thickened soup kept the egg light, wispy, and cohesive. Pork and tofu are usual, easy-to-find additions to the broth, but we had to come up with substitutes for a few other classic additions, settling on fresh shiitakes in lieu of wood ear mushrooms and canned bamboo shoots instead of lily buds.list of recipes