I can’t remember where the original recipe that I learnt for hot and sour soup came from, but it was an absolute revelation! Before this, I’d only ever had the bright orange gloopy kind that seemed so popular with Chinese takeaways when I was growing up, which I’m pretty sure was just thinned down sweet and sour sauce with chilli in…
But this type, with its combination of white pepper for heat and chiankiang black vinegar and rice vinegar for the sourness is a whole different proposition!
As these things do, my recipe has changed over the years I’ve been making it, quite often when I haven’t had one of the original ingredients. So where here I’ve used pickled gherkin, it started off as szechuan preserved vegetables… but the gherkin works beautifully, and in combination with samphire gives the soup the correct salt and tang to go with the basic flavours. I’d never tried samphire in this sort of recipe before, but there were packs of it in the supermarket looking so appealing and wow does it work well!
I do think that the soup needs the dried shiitake mushrooms, they give a gorgeous earthy depth that is hard to get with any other ingredient.
The potato starch added at the end gives the soup a little more body, but it’s by no means essential.
makes 1 large bowlful
3 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 shiitake mushroom, soaked in 100 ml hot water for 20 minutes and then sliced (reserve the soaking water)
30 g samphire
100 g tofu, cubed
1 tbsp chopped pickled gherkin
1 tsp grated ginger
400 ml vegetable stock, hot
1/2 tbsp chiankiang black vinegar
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tbsp tamari or light soy sauce
a large pinch of white pepper
1/2 tsp potato starch, slaked (optional)
Put the mushrooms (fresh and shiitake), gherkin, ginger, stock, reserved mushroom water, vinegars, tamari and white pepper in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 3 minutes until the mushrooms are starting to soften. Add the samphire and tofu and cook for a further 2 minutes until just heated through.
Stir in the potato starch if using.