This soup won’t solve all of your problems, but it will come pretty close. On a day that requires it, this soup will warm you up from your toes to your fingertips. Especially on a gorgeous snow day like this. The rich gorgeous stock, the sparkle of white pepper, the marinaded pork, smoked tofu, sweet pops of tomato and shiitakes. Those slivers of egg. It will fight the cold, be it physical or mental. People, you need this hot and sour soup in your repertoire.
Every soup is only as good as its stock and the stock I made for this is special. If you don’t have time to make it, substitute it with the best chicken stock you can find. The flavour and the goodness is in the broth. I like to make it with a combination of chicken wings and pork ribs, but honestly, whatever you have to hand or like. Broth from a ham hock will do a mighty job here too (and isn’t it ham hock season?! Deep joy).
White pepper is essential here too, and I feel that everyone should have it in their cupboard just for a while (and then forever), so that they can se how good it is. I love it so much that I have two pepper grinders, one for black pepper and one for white. The white one gets more action, it is bigger too. And my white pepper stash is a special one, an almost depleted bag of white peppercorns from Sarawak in Borneo which I visited a couple of years ago. However, any good white pepper will do, and any Asian shop or spice shop will have buckets of it.
The soup is bulked with protein: a heavenly trifecta of pork marinaded in shaoshing wine and cornflour which flavour and thicken the soup. Tofu, smoked if possible, is important here too. Or a good tofu, again from an Asian supermarket. Tofu is so misunderstood and so underrated. Perceived as a meat substitute and therefore less than, tofu is so much more. In Asia you will more commonly see tofu with meat than without. I love it in a crisp salt and pepper crust, or baked with kimchi and pork or bacon slivers on top. Minced pork fried first finishes this beautifully too.
Hot and sour soup glistens with cornflour and dances with slivers of egg. The gloopiness of the cornflour thickening is not to everyones taste, and in this soup it is a little less than you might experience in a traditional Chinese bowl. I make it how I like it, and that is the joy of cooking at home.
Make this soup, and make a big pot of it. It will see you through the week for suppers and lunches (and it reheats well). That is if you don’t finish the pot in one sitting, as I did. But there is always another one when you want it.
Notes on the recipe: take the ribs out of the stock and shred the meat. You can add this to the soup if you like or save it for another one. Add it to a broth, enrich a ragu with it, use it to stuff dumplings, stick it in a toasty with the meltiest of cheese and some greens. The possibilities are endless. Do the same with the chicken, I prefer to save the chicken meat for soup at this time of year especially. As with all recipes, I suggest that you adjust this for personal taste. If you don’t eat pork you can try it with chicken (and adjust the stock also).
You also need to make (similar recipes from the archives)
- 250g pork tenderloin
- 50ml shaoshing wine
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 200g tofu, smoked if possible, cut into thin slices
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tomatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 tbsp Korean gochugaru (or another mild dried chilli, or chilli of your choice)
- 1.5l best chicken or pork stock (or the stock below, if you have time)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp cornflour
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp Sesame oil
- 3 tbsp vinegar (rice vinegar or a good cider vinegar)
- White pepper, to taste
- 500g pork ribs (with bone)
- 500g chicken wings or 2 raw chicken carcasses
- 4 carrots
- 4 sticks celery
- 3 onions
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp white peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Greens, chillies, herbs, whatever you fancy. I used mizuna and mild red chilli. Fresh coriander would work really well here too.