On ordinary days, on cold days, on I-have-a-cold days, Chinese hot-and-sour soup delivers just the amount of mouth-puckering, tingly comfort that I crave. (It’s right up there with Thai tom yum gai, in my book). It’s hard to beat the convenience and price of my local carryout spot. But I do love the challenge of re-creating a favorite restaurant dish at home, and if you’re someone who appreciates having more control over what you eat, it’s a no-brainer.
So here’s my take on Takeout-Style Hot-and-Sour Soup. In this soup, the hot comes courtesy of ground white pepper and the sour comes from Chinkiang black vinegar. This will probably require a trip to your local Asian market or an online order. If, however, that’s not in the cards, America’s Test Kitchen recommends a replacement of 1 tablespoon each of balsamic and red wine vinegars. It won’t be the same, but it’s something.
Dried mushrooms play a strong supporting role, lending heft to the final dish and a savory, umami-rich undertone to the broth. I felt like I’d struck liquid gold when I decided to use some of the mushroom soaking water to form the basis of the soup, too. The two types called for here are dried shiitake, available at many supermarkets, and wood ear, which you might as well pick up from the Asian market when you get the black vinegar. If you can’t find wood ear (it may be labeled as black fungus), just use all shiitake. It’ll be fine.
The end product, however, is anything but “fine.” It’s superb.