Sour-and-hot mushroom soup

Sour-and-hot mushroom soup

Suan la shan zhen tang

Every Grain of Rice
Chris Terry

I’ve never been crazy about the sour-and-hot (or hot-and-sour) soups they serve in Chinese restaurants in the West, but I adore the subtler southern Chinese versions, of which this is one. I like to make it with a good chicken stock, but if you use a vegetable stock the recipe is entirely vegetarian.

The soup is floaty with slivered mushrooms, tofu and exotically lovely day lily flowers, its light mushroomy broth enlivened by Chinkiang vinegar and a good kick of white pepper. Feel free to vary the variety of mushrooms as you please. A few slivers of leftover chicken, added to the broth, would make a nice addition for meat eaters. You’ll need a deep pot or tureen to serve this soup.


Quantity Ingredient
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
small handful dried day lily flowers, (optional, but nice)
1 litre stock of your choice, (see recipe introduction)
15 g piece ginger, peeled
75g fresh shiitake mushrooms
75g oyster mushrooms
50g enoki mushrooms
225g plain white tofu
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons chinkiang vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced


  1. Soak the dried shiitake and lily flowers (if using) in hot water from the kettle for at least an hour before you begin.
  2. Set the stock in a pan to heat up before you begin cooking.
  3. Cut the ginger into fine slivers. Trim off and discard the stalks of the soaked mushrooms and thinly slice the caps. Discard the stalks of the fresh shiitake and cut the caps into strips 1/2–1 cm wide. Cut the oyster mushrooms lengthways into similar thin strips. Gently pull apart the clumped enoki mushrooms. Cut the tofu into strips of a similar size to the mushrooms (it may disintegrate slightly, but don’t worry about this).
  4. Heat the oil in a seasoned wok over a high flame. Add the ginger and sizzle for a few moments until fragrant. Then add the dried and fresh mushrooms and lily flowers (if using) and stir-fry until the mushrooms are about half-cooked and smell wonderful. Pour in the heated stock and bring to a boil. Add the tofu and stir gently. Season the soup with the soy sauces, and salt to taste (a good salty flavour is a necessary base for a sour-and-hot soup).
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the vinegar and pepper and continue to simmer for 30 seconds or so to fuse the flavours. Off the heat, stir in the sesame oil, then ladle or pour the soup into a deep pot or tureen. Scatter over the spring onions and serve.
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