Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

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Today seems like a good day for soup. Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup that is.

Now, I am going to spend the next five minutes professing my undying love for Hot & Sour Soup. This is serious comfort food folks; at least for me.

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may remember me waxing poetic about a certain Healthy Chinese Restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown that I dearly miss and crave all the time. It was in this post – 1 Point Chicken Wontons.

Well, Charles Plaza makes the most unbelievable Vegetarian Hot & Sour Soup – EVER. That is a difficult task my friends. Most Hot & Sour soup is pork based (which is already a problem for me since I don’t eat pork), has MSG or some other questionable ingredient and isn’t made with the highest quality stuff. I have yet to find a delicious Hot & Sour Soup (outside of Charles that is) that is made with non-GMO tofu, no MSG, no Pork, is clean and full of flavor. Trust me, I have been looking. Oh, and by the way, why doesn’t Seattle have ANY good Chinese Food? What is up with that?

I got my hands on this cookbook and right there on page 55 is a recipe for Hot and Sour Soup. I have tried about eight recipes in the last year and none of them have been up to my standards, but this one – the photo is what got me. As soon as I saw the color and texture of Bee’s Hot & Sour Soup, I knew I had to make a Vegetarian version of it. Immediately.

The irony is that I based my 1 Point Chicken Wontons on one of Bee’s recipes so I should have known to look, but I didn’t, until it fell into my lap. I guess its like that old saying; the teacher comes when the student is ready. 😉

There are a couple specialty ingredients needed to make this soup, but once you get to your local Asian supermarket or order them online, the whole thing comes together in no time – maybe 15 minutes tops. This Vegetarian version is pretty freaking close to Charles and I can’t get enough of it!

NOTES:

  • Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms are usually found at any Asian grocery store but most of the packages I found were treated with Sulfites. Not cool. I did a little research and found this company. After talking to a customer service rep and confirming that their mushrooms were sourced properly and not treated with anything I ordered a big bag for about $8. I will get many, many pots of soup from this bag and am really happy to have a great quality product on hand to make this soup over and over again!
  • Mirin is Chinese Rice Wine (not Rice Vinegar!) There is only a teaspoon here and I am not sure it adds that much so we are not using it to marinate chicken or pork so you could probably sub Sherry Wine or one of the other substitutes listed in that article I linked to.
  • I went to an amazing soup cooking class last year and was introduced to this No-Chicken broth by Imagine. It really is one of the best quality pre-made broths I’ve ever used and is particularly amazing for Vegetarian dishes where you want a clean, chicken stock like flavor. TIP: There are always coupons for this brand on Mambo Sprouts and Whole Foods Market so clip some and stock up because it can be pricey (but worth it!).
  • When it comes to canned, sliced Bamboo Shoots, I usually stick with either Native Forest or Sun Luck. Neither has any sulfites or added preservatives and are easily found at the stores I shop at. Sun Luck is a bit less expensive and found at the regular grocery store here in addition to the natural food stores.
  • Chinese Black Vinegar (also called Chinkiang) should be easy to find at any Asian grocery store. It was only a couple dollars for a big bottle.
  • A quick tip to save some time is buy a bag of already shredded carrots. I prefer the crunch of the thin matchsticks but sometimes you just want to save time and you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do!
  • Last note – I prefer my Hot & Sour soup on the thinner side but if you want a thicker soup, I suggest doubling the cornstarch and water ratio to 6 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/2 cup water.

5.0 from 6 reviews
Vegetarian Hot + Sour Soup
 
Prep:
Cook:
Total:
 
4 Points Plus Per Serving -- Serves 4 -- Individual Serving is 1¾ Cups
By:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large or ¼ cup dried wood ear mushroom, soaked in 1 cup boiling water and sliced
  • 6 ounces organic, NON-GMO soft tofu, cut into strips
  • 1 teaspoon Mirin
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 cups Imagine "No-Chicken" broth
  • 1 cup reserved mushroom soaking water
  • 1 small carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 4 ounces sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 scallions, greens only, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Chinese Black Vinegar (Chinkiang)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch + ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Red Chili Oil (or more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Instructions
PREP:
  1. Start by covering the dried wood ear mushroom with one cup of boiling water. Set aside to soak while you complete the rest of the prep work.
  2. Slice tofu into thin strips and combine with Mirin and ½ teaspoon cornstarch.
  3. Cut sliced bamboo shoots into thin matchsticks.
  4. Trim whites off scallions and cut greens into thin rounds.
  5. Combine soy sauce, black vinegar, rice vinegar, white pepper, salt, remaining cornstarch and water with red chili oil and toasted sesame oil.
  6. Beat eggs and cut carrots into thin matchsticks. Pull dried mushroom out of soaking liquid (reserving liquid for soup) and thinly slice. Yes, it looks strange. It's good and adds so much to the soup.
COOK:
  1. Pour the broth and mushroom soaking liquid into a large saucepan or soup pot and bring to a boil. .
  2. Add tofu, mushrooms, carrot and bamboo shoots and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
  3. Next, add in the seasonings (soy sauce, etc.). Stir to combine and turn off heat.
  4. Gently pour the beaten eggs into soup in a circle pattern. Immediately stir two to three times with a pair of chopsticks, cover and let sit for two minutes.
  5. Serve topped with chopped scallions and more Chili Oil to taste. Enjoy!

 

Adapted From: Hot and Sour Soup from Easy Chinese Recipes by Bee Yinn Low

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Comments

  1. jb says

    I desperately miss Charles Plaza. Any chance you have any other recipes like his? I miss the house special wonton, the”ham” and greens, sesame chicken, and orange “chicken”. I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  2. Donna says

    Having lived in and near Philadelphia my whole life, I ate at Charles’ many times, and Charles being the wonderful host he was, had our bowls of hot & sour on the table before we spoke a word. I was devastated to hear the restaurant had closed. Thank you, thank you so much for this recipe which is very close to the real deal, Charles’. The black vinegar is essential. Living in the suburbs now, I had some trouble finding it but finally found it at the Asian market next to SuTao vegan restaurant in Malvern.

  3. cory says

    although it’s hotter these past few days than it has been all summer here in new jersey, i have been CRAVING hot & sour soup. also, i’ve been wanting to try my hand at doing some asian cooking, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to get started. with your printed recipe in hand, i excitedly went to an asian supermarket this morning then came home and made a pot right away.
    my family just finished devouring the entire pot! this soup is absolutely delicious!! i have never had charles plaza hot & sour soup, but have had it at singapore and harmony – your recipe is pretty freakin’ close to perfect! bonus is, once you gather all the ingredients, it’s really easy to make!
    thanks for sharing this – your recipe has become an instant “go to” here!

  4. larryphrank says

    So, I finally made it back to Philly to not only try the Hot and Sour soup at Charles Plaza ( as you recommended). But my intentioned were even greater. My plans were to try 5 different vegetarian hot and sour soups by 5 different restaurants and do a comparison. SIngapore, Veggie Lovers, New Harmony, Kingdom vegetarian ( all of which I have eaten at before) and Charles Plaza,

    Ive been planning this trip for awhile, mapping out all the restaurants etc… My wife thought I was crazy. While researching the restaurants, I found out that Kingdom vegetarian and singapore had closed. Sadly, I was down to 3 restaurants.

    I told my wife how much you raved about Charles Plaza’s soup, so that was my first stop.

    But with great sadness, and disappointment to me, there was a sign on the door, thanking all its customers for the past 20 years, announcing that Charles Plaza has closed. Yes, thats right, It has shut down as of May 4th of this year. I could not believe that I missed it by about 2 weeks.

    We wound up eating at New Harmony, trying the soup , which was fair at best. Tomorrow I will go to veggie lovers and I found another ( Ho Sai Gai) which I will try as well.

    Anyway, sorry to be the one to break the news, and even more sorry that I never had the pleasure of trying their soup.

    • says

      Oh my gosh Larry!!! :( I am so sad. I can not believe Charles closed. I wonder if he retired or just was done with the restaurant business. What a great loss. Thank you so much for telling me – I appreciate it. I hope the rest of your trip in Philly is good!

  5. R says

    Love this!!! Very hard to find a clean, vegetarian hot and sour soup out here. Did about 4 substitutes because of availability and preference, but was still delicious. I will definitely make this again!

  6. Eilia says

    I just read this recipe and as an avid lover of hot n sour soup myself I’m excited to try it out! I did have to comment though after reading that Seattle doesn’t have any great Chinese food! I am from Seattle and have an absolute favorite restaurant to visit every time I’m back. Uptown china in Queen Anne. You’ve GOT to go there. Amazing food, can’t go wrong! I’ve said a number of times I could live on their hot and sour soup (although I’m sure it isn’t vegetarian), and their mandarin chicken wings and fried rice are literally the best I’ve EVER tasted. Try it out :)

    • EverydayMaven says

      Hi Eilia,
      Thanks for the rec – I’ll have to check it out. Do you know if they use natural ingredients / MSG / food coloring / etc.?

  7. LarryPhrank says

    Its nice to find someone with such a passion for hot and sour soup as myself. and having the philly connection is great too.
    Ill be in philly around 4th of July, and ive already put charles plaza on my list of things to do. I even travel with a soup bowl / and spoon which i purchased in the philly china town. Since everytime im there, i always order a few quarts of H&S to take back to the hotel room. My wife thinks im crazy, but who cares. she loads up on starbucks, and i think thats crazy. Ive even gotten to the point where id offer money to anyone of these restuarants with the great H&S soup for the recipe, or to let me sit in while they are making it. My refrigerator / cupboard is filled with as many chinese condiments as you can imagine that ive acquired over the years, searching for the perfect recipe, and trying all different kinds of ingredients. Hopefully Ill get a chance to do some shopping this weekend, and give this recpie a try. Hopefully ill be one step closer .

  8. LarryPhrank says

    First time i tasted Vegetarian Hot and Sour soup was about 25 years ago. Ive been Hooked ever since. It’s now a requirement for me to even enter a Chinese restaurant, looking first to see if they have it on their menu. And also a requirement for me to return, I must love it. After 25 years, i can count on one hand the amount of restaurants that have great Veg H&S soup. 1 in New york, the other 3 in Philly (Charles plaza I havnt tried, but you’ve got me curious , and its on my list next time Im down there). Anyway, Since my first taste, Ive been on a quest to find a recipe that meets my satisfaction. All falling short. I have all the right physical ingredients, but its the broth that does me in. All this being said, I appreciate you showing a pic of the brands of ingredients you use. Different brands can have different tastes leading to different results. Its 1am, couldnt sleep, stumbled on this recipe. Havnt tried it yet, but on my list of things to do. Hopefully my quest ends here.

    • EverydayMaven says

      Larry,

      You must, must, must head to Charles Plaza! The Hot & Sour Soup is clearly a MUST but also order the Steamed Chicken Dumplings, Chicken Soong (appetizer), Singapore Rice Noodles (add extra vegetables) and the Seafood in Taro Root Basket plus his homemade Hot Oil on the side. Amazing meal!

    • EverydayMaven says

      H&Sour has always been one of my favorites and I am always so bummed I can’t get a good, clean version anywhere (except in Philly!).

    • EverydayMaven says

      Thanks! I was hoping to demystify it a bit. It really comes together so quick, it’s just a matter of getting the couple hard to find ingredients and being comfortable with them :)

  9. David says

    There are two other things of interest to use, vegan dried squid about the egg time. Diced or grated black mountain yam or dark variety of Yamaimo at the very end. It will add a smooth heavy body and the vegan squid will be also thickening as well as adding some fine flavor. These soups are so good on the right day. They just make your body feel so right. Funny how this amazing soup builds into such an amazing bowl before your very eyes! Thanks for reminding me!

    • EverydayMaven says

      Interesting David – I have never heard of the Vegan Dried Squid – what is it made of? I am going to look for both of these!

      • David says

        The vegan squid will probably be from Taiwan, in a hanger pack, looking like a golden jerky strands. Like a weird snack people would eat overseas (un-fritoish) while on sailing boats or downtown on saturday. The strands will be twisted and frayed. I am guessing tofu skin (yuba), mushroom stems, carrageenan or other soy. when I saw your step-by-step w/pics it reminded me of how every H&S soup looks really really bland, until it builds into one of the best meals. You know how you just say what the heck and throw something on hand in. In Baton Rouge a store, Vhin Phat has both products on occasion. The V squid I tried in egg drop, H&S and a veg chicken soup. it helps a clear broth turn yellow and the “squid” of course is nothing like squid, but like egg in eggdrop soup. Dime size, pale and thin in the soup it adds body like an egg.
        The black yam is sold fresh, has wax dipped on the stem end for an inch or so, is slightly scaly and between two and five inches long.
        As soon as possible I’ll send more info to the editor. Eventually you will see this in Asian ethnic groceries because they use it themselves. Nab them and experiment!

  10. says

    Great recipe – and timely, too! I make a pretty good hot and sour soup (although I add pork, I usually go more in a chicken direction) but have been toying with the idea of a vegetarian one. The Imagine-brand stock is excellent – I’ve used that several times. You have some great tips here. BTW, if I’m out rice wine, I substitute dry sherry – the flavor is rather similar. Good stuff – thank you.
    kitchenriffs recently posted..Easy Tandoori ChickenMy Profile

    • EverydayMaven says

      I also have made this with chicken and chicken stock. It’s good both ways but the chicken doesn’t make a big enough difference to me for the extra calories/Points so I stuck with Vegetarian. Thanks :)

  11. says

    I knew when I saw the opening image that I would want to try this. I too am frustrated vegetarian hot and sour soup seeker and this looks perfect to me. Thanks for doing the hard work for me 😀 Most of the ingredients I can get but some of the proprietary brands I will have to find alternatives (the stock for instance I will just use a really good vegetable one if that’s permissible). Btw, I almost always use dry sherry for the mirin as I actually like the taste better.
    kellie@foodtoglow recently posted..Sweetly Savoury Borscht (vegan beetroot soup)My Profile

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