Hot and sour soup (Suan La Tang) is a spicy Chinese soup popular across the country, especially in cold winter. It is a savory soup made with ingredients such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms, tofu, and egg and seasoned with peppers and black vinegar.

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The origin of hot and sour soup

It is first invented for poor people who need to warm their bodies up. So lots of white pepper is used. The soup has been around since the Han Dynasty when it was used as a medicinal remedy for colds and flu. It is believed that the dish was invented during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), but there is no exact date as to when it was first created.

It has different versions in China

In the Sichuan area, hot and sour soup is called Suan La Tang which is mainly cooked with chicken and pork stock.

In Northern areas, it is called Hu La Tang and usually with beef or lamb stock. Although there are some differences in texture including the color and flavors, they share lots of similarities too.

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Dishes with long ingredient lists are popular in Chinese cuisine

There are lots of similar mixed dishes in China. In Chinese cuisine, we want to eat more types of vegetables in one meal. That’s a theory about balance and diversion. There are lots of similar dishes for example eight treasure rice, eight treasure congee, and  Buddha’s delight.

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Dried shiitake mushroom

Dried shiitake mushroom is much better than fresh mushrooms because of their flavor. The sun-drying process makes the ribonucleic acid much easier to release and hydrate. But it has stronger flavors compared with fresh shiitake mushrooms and is less smooth in texture. So the principles

  1. Use dried shiitake mushrooms for a better flavor of your hot and sour soup.
  2. Not too much to avoid dominating

Wood ear mushrooms

Wood ear mushroom provides a lovely black color and a crunchy texture to the soup. If you want a beautiful appearance of the soup, cut the wooden ear mushrooms into smaller pieces.

Soft tofu

Tofu performs to create a melt-in-mouth and super soft texture. So soft tofu will be the first choice for this soup.


You can use pork shreds, chicken shreds, cooked beef or lamb, and seafood as protein. In addition, ham, spam, and other already processed protein are also great for hot and sour soup. If you get high-quality ham, your soup will be quite amazing. If all of the processed protein is not by hand or not accepted, I suggest using coated pork shreds. In Sichuan cuisine, we have a very popular local snack named “水滑肉” which literally means sliding meat in water. It has a very lovely texture, is super tender inside, and is smooth for the shell. I will introduce the authentic version later. But you can have some basic idea about how the meat can be after making this hot and sour soup.

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Cook’s Note

  1. Vinegar and pepper powder should be added just before turning off the fire because the vinegar might be volatilized after a long time of cooking and thus reduce the taste.
  2. Dark soy sauce is used to darken the color and it is optional if you want to create a big contrast between the appearance and flavor.
  3. Do not add too much salt at the very beginning. Light soy sauce contains lots of salt. And you can slightly add more salt after the soup is finished based on personal preference. But too much salt at firstly is a real disaster.
  4. This soup is actually quite easy and enjoyable. Drizzling some sesame oil at the very end can add some naughty flavors and also make the soup more shinning.  
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What to serve with hot and sour soup

Hot and sour soup is widely served as breakfast, partnered with scallion pancakes, buns, and other options for Chinese breakfast.

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Hot and Sour Soup

Traditional Chinese hot and sour soup
4.95 from 19 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Sichuan cuisine
Keyword: Hot and Sour
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 Making 4 bowls
Calories: 199kcal
Author: Elaine


  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms , soaked in hot water and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dried wood ear mushrooms , soaked in hot water and shredded
  • 50 g pork shreds
  • 4 bamboo shoots , finely shredded
  • 1/3 carrot , shredded
  • 1 thumb ginger , shredded
  • 2 tsp. fresh ground white pepper powder
  • 5 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 50g soft tofu
  • 2 tbsp. light soy sauce , or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 large egg , whisked
  • 3 tbsp. black vinegar
  • sesame oil for drizzling
  • chopped green onion and coriander

Pork marinating

  • 2 tsp. light soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. starch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Starch water

  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch or other starch
  • 3 tbsp. water


  • Prepare the pork, marinate pork shreds with light soy sauce, sugar, salt and cornstarch. Mix well.
  • In a wok, add carrots, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushroom, shiitake mushroom and ginger shreds. Add chicken stock, bring to a boiling and then simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and salt. Continue cooking for 2 minutes.
  • Then place shredded tofu in. Then place pork shreds in and gently stir by chopstick when the content boils again.
  • Stir the starch water once and then place the starch water in the soup. Heat to thicken.
  • Drizzle egg liquid in. If you want smaller flowers, stirring at a faster speed. Or for larger flowers, stir roughly.
  • Place black vinegar and white ground pepper in. Turn off fire immediately.
  • Add some extra aroma by placing chopped green onion and coriander. Drizzle some sesame oil and serve hot.



Calories: 199kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 116mg | Sodium: 1488mg | Potassium: 227mg | Vitamin A: 160IU | Vitamin C: 0.5mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 1.3mg
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  1. Hello Elaine,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. I’ve tried it once (not with tofu though, because it’s really hard to find here, in Greece) for a chinese food themed party and it was a huge hit.

    I have a question, though: does is freeze? If a make a big batch, is it possible to put some of it in the freezer, to have at hand in a cold winter’s evening?

    Thanks again!

    1. No, this soup can’t be frozen and re-heated because of the features of the starch. But you can prepare all the ingredients and package them together. Then cook the soup directly. It should be quite quick them.

  2. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe. I love your site, and videos – they are very professional and well done. I am so happy to find genuine Sichuan recipes written by a Sichuan woman, and in English! Thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    This soup is fantasrtic and was so easy to make! Not over loaded with sugar like other hot and sour soup recipes. Next time we make it we will be adding in some fresh chili peppers for a bit more heat. That was the only thing missing from this favorite dish of mine!

  4. Hi Elaine: Love your site, it’s the best Sichuan food blog on the web, in my opinion. In this recipe, are the quantities for the pork and doufu correct, 50 grams each? In the video it looks like you use a good deal more than that. Making this tonight! Thanks for all your excellent work, and your generosity~ Brett

  5. 5 stars
    This is a fabulous recipe, and much more authentic than other recipes for hot and sour soup I have found online. I had never tried “real” hot and sour soup, as the soup served in Chinese buffets in the US is extremely salty, bland, and has far too much corn starch giving it a ‘gluey’ texture.

    This soup is vibrant and flavorful, and I love how much pepper it has! I added fresh enoki mushrooms in addition to the dried shiitake and wood ear mushrooms halfway through cooking and they appear to have held up well; I also added a very small amount of honey vinegar as I wished for the soup to be a little more striking and sour. I was extremely happy with how it turned out!

    1. Mindy,
      Basically Chinese soups are more lighter than western soups. So mine looks quite different from the regular “US” version. I am so glad to know that you find it and love it as me. Happy cooking! Hope you get more pleasure time in your kitchen.

  6. 5 stars
    When I visited Taiwan the Hot and Sour soup usually included pig’s blood. Back here in the USA I found only one Chinese restaurant that admitted to using it although likely some do. When I make it I just add some of the liquid from the pork package.

    1. Wow, that’s interesting. The mainland Chinese version doesn’t include pig’s blood. We have another soup famous for the pig blood version, it is with glass noodles.

  7. 5 stars
    This looks great, and I have to try it! But I have one question….

    HOW can you say this thing is 10 min prep and 10 min cook? That list of shredding and prepping is a mile long, not to mention of the steps is 15 minutes of simmering!! Seriously, how long does it really take? Can you update those numbers to something realistic? tks!