Do you know you can make this hot and sour soup, 酸辣汤 (Suān là tāng) vegan at home with just a few ingredients? This recipe will surely satisfy any cravings for soup.
Are you a soup lover? I am! Since young, my nanny liked to call me ‘soon wong’ which means ‘soup king’ in Hakka. She told me I always like to drink my soup first before my meal. I still do it this way until now.
What is Hot and Sour soup?
Hot and sour soup or 酸辣汤 (Suān là tāng) is typically made with a variety of vegetables such as mushrooms, carrots, bamboo shoots, and often with pork, then thickened with cornstarch slurry.
You may be familiar with this soup especially if you have dined at a Chinese restaurant before. It’s often served with crispy wonton strips and a side of extra vinegar or chili oil. This soup can be easily veganized while keeping the delicious flavor and you can see how to do this today.
I first tasted a vegetarian hot and sour soup at my professor’s home in Oklahoma. Holding that warm bowl in cold Oklahoma weather was definitely satisfying and a great memory. While I don’t know the origin of this soup but I sincerely love the thickness and the vinegary taste of it.
Do you know the hot part of this soup does not come from chili? It actually comes from a good amount of white pepper added while making the soup. When white pepper is added and cook along with other ingredients, the peppery taste will slowly immerse into the broth and give you the ‘heat’.
But, many added a swirl of chili oil towards the end for an extra spicy punch. That being said, if you are not a big fan of spicy food, you will still be able to enjoy this soup with the pepper heat and not the spicy heat from the chili. This recipe is inspired by my Venerables and chef James (YouTube).
Vegan Hot and Sour Soup Ingredients
- Dried Shiitake or fresh shiitake – If you are using dried Shiitake mushrooms, do reserve the water that you used to soak them in.
- Wood ear mushrooms – I love this for the crunch.
- Bamboo shoot – fresh or in a can or chili oil.
- Mung bean thread or glass noodle
- Water – Yes, you only need water, but feel free to use vegetable stock that is usually lighter than broth and has less celery taste.
- Seasoning – vinegar, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, mushrooms seasoning, or vegetable bouillon.
- White pepper – the most important ingredient for the peppery heat.
How to make Vegan Hot and Sour soup
This recipe is really as simple as it can be. All you need is a pot that you can sauté the ingredients with, water, and seasoning. I did make the wonton strips ahead of time but if you prefer to keep this soup gluten-free, please use crispy toppings that you like.
Step 1: Prepare the ingredients
This is step can be done a day before so you can have this soup in no time the next day.
First, soak dried Shiitake and wood ear mushrooms in water until soft. I usually prepare the dried Shiitake mushrooms the night before. The next morning, squeeze out the water but reserve the Shiitake mushroom water for later. Then, slice it thinly and set it aside. For the wood ear mushrooms, soak until soft then remove the tough ends before slicing.
Second, soak the mung bean thread in room temperature water until soft and pliable. Next, grate the carrot and set it aside. Then, remove the tofu from its packaging and cut it into thin slices. For other ways to prepare the tofu, please see below.
Step 2: Cook the soup
To make the soup, heat a 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the oil and sauté mushrooms and carrot until the mushrooms release their aroma.
Continue to sauté the wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoot. Then, add a swirl of soy sauce to season the ingredients.
Add the water and the rest of the ingredients and bring the mixture to boil.
Stir in the cornstarch slurry to thicken the soup. Ladle the soup to a bowl and add a swirl of vinegar, toasted sesame oil, or chili oil. Season with more white pepper if needed. Garnish with wonton strips and cilantro. Serve warm.
Vegan Hot and Sour soup Cooking tips
1. Take your time in sautéing – As you may have seen in my videos and recipes, I like to sauté the spices or mushrooms first, then vegetables instead of adding all ingredients at once. This step is important to allow each ingredient to slowly release its own aroma. So, in this recipe, I sautéed the mushrooms and carrot first, then continue cooking with the rest of the ingredients.
2. Bamboo shoot in chili oil vs fresh – Both will work great, it’s a personal preference. One note is that store-bought bamboo shoots in chili oil may have a stronger smell compared to the fresh ones. If you are using the bamboo shoot in chili oil, you can skip the red oil swirl before serving.
3. Is bean thread (mung bean vermicelli) necessary? It makes a big difference by adding a small bunch of this translucent ‘noodle’ in this soup. It gives the soup an extra layer of texture with a silky smooth mouthfeel. This ingredient is inspired by the vegan sharkfin soups from home and chef James (YouTube).
4. White pepper or chili oil or both? As mentioned above, the ‘spicy’ heat comes from white pepper. It’s added to the soup while cooking and not as a sprinkle before serving. Cooking the white pepper with the rest of the ingredients will allow the pepper to blend into the soup while creating peppery heat. Chili oil is added right before serving for an extra spicy flavor. So, yes, both can be used at the same time.
5. Why did you add vinegar in the last step? If you add the vinegar earlier in the cooking, it will evaporate and you may need to use a lot more to get that vinegary taste. So, adding right before you serve will have the right balance of sourness without using too much of it.
Which type of tofu to use?
I highly recommend that you use soft or silken or soon tofu in this recipe. It creates a beautiful and luscious soup with a silky smooth texture.
It is a bit challenging to cut soft or silken tofu into thin slices, so here is what you can do:
- Remove the plastic cover
- Invert the tofu box onto your chopping board
- Poke a few holes on the edge of the box to release the pressure
- Slowly lift up the box and you should have silken tofu in one piece
Another good way to enjoy silken tofu in this soup is to use a spoon to scoop the tofu. It will taste just as great and there is no need to worry about removing the tofu from its box.
Check out my other tofu recipes:
Why You Need this Vegan Hot and sour soup
- It’s made with simple ingredients
- Ready in less than 30 minutes
- Easily customizable – use gluten-free sauces
- Low in fat
- It goes well with stir-fried rice vermicelli or rice
- It’s so tasty with each slurp
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Hot and Sour soup – 素酸辣汤
- 12 oz silken or soft tofu
- 4 dried Shiitake mushrooms or use fresh
- 10 g wood ear mushrooms
- 50 g [1 bunch] dried mung bean thread soak in water until soft
- 1 small carrot shredded
- 3 oz bamboo shoot in chili oil
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper see notes
- 1 tablespoon ShaoXing wine optional
- 3 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon mushroom seasoning/powder
- 6 cups of water plus more for cornstarch slurry
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons vinegar or rice vinegar
- chopped cilantro
- fried wonton strips
- chile oil
- toasted sesame oil
- Prepare the mushrooms: Place dried Shiitake and wood ear mushrooms in separate bowls and soak them in 1 cup of water until soft. If you are using fresh Shiitake mushrooms, skip this step.
- Once the mushrooms are soft, squeeze out the water. Keep the mushrooms water for later. Cut the mushrooms into thin strips. For wood ear mushrooms, remove the tough ends before slicing.
- Next, heat a 5-quart pan and add a tablespoon of oil. Sauté mushrooms and carrots until the mushrooms release their aroma. Add the wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoot, then stir-fry for a few seconds over medium-low heat.
- Swirl in the soy sauce around the side of the pan and quickly stir the mixture to combine. Mix the mushrooms water in water to make 6 cups of liquid, then add to the pot.
- Season with ground pepper, Shao Xing wine, sugar, and mushroom seasoning. Give the mixture a quick stir and add the mung bean thread and tofu.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for another minute or so. Taste and season if needed.
- Now, mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in 3 tablespoons of water until well combined. Add this thick slurry into the soup while stirring continuously. The soup should start to thicken by now. If not, add more cornstarch slurry.
- Turn off the heat and ladle the soup into a large bowl.
- Swirl in the vinegar and add a splash of chile and toasted sesame oil. Finally, garnish with fried wonton strips and chopped cilantro. Serve warm.
- *The 1 teaspoon ground white pepper is meant to give the soup the heat. If you don’t like the peppery taste, please start with 1/4 teaspoon and increase it to your likings.
- For those who can’t have Shao Xing wine, please skip this ingredient
- Vinegar: Most vinegar will work such as distilled vinegar, white wine vinegar, red vinegar, black vinegar, or rice vinegar.