Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup Recipe

Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup Recipe Recipe

Hot and sour soup is a wonderful first course. It's bursting with strong flavors such as kaffir lime leaves, chiles and lime juice. To balance the dish, cubes of silken  tofuwater chestnuts and  wood ear mushrooms are added. I also thickened the broth with tapioca starch.

The girls and I are still keeping up with our daily workout routine, starting in the wee hours of the morning while the baby is sleeping. After completing our exercise, we all discuss what the menu of the day is going to be. Fun time! 


Yields: 8 servings

2 quarts vegetable stock
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn into thirds
¼ cup freshly grated ginger
1½ teaspoons salt, to taste
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 tablespoons freshly grated palm sugar, to taste
½ cup soy sauce, to taste
1 (18-ounce) package silken soft tofu
¼ cup fresh tofu skin (yuba), cut into thin strips
5 ounces fresh water chestnuts
4 wood ear mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 king oyster mushroom (see tips), diced
1 green Thai bird chile, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
⅓ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1½ teaspoons black pepper, freshly cracked
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


Prepping the tofu: Drain the liquid from the package of the tofu. Slice the tofu in two, horizontally. Gently cut the tofu into 1-inch square cubes. Silken tofu is very delicate and easily breakable, so be very cautious and gentle. Set aside.

How to cook water chestnuts: Wash the chestnuts in cold water and then soak them in lukewarm water for about 30 minutes. With a paring knife, make a small criss-cross cut at the root of each water chestnut. Make sure the incision is not too deep so as not to cut the flesh of the chestnut. Place the chestnuts in a pot and cover them with water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 30 minutes.
 Allow to cool. As soon as they are not too hot to handle, shell the water chestnuts, slice them and then cut the slices in half to make small cubes.

Prepping the hot and sour broth:

In a 5-quart stockpot, add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the kaffir lime leaves and grated ginger. Cook for 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve. Discard the solids. Pour the broth back into the pot.

Check the sourness of the broth. Add the lemon juice and red chili powder. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add soy sauce and salt. Taste again. Finish with palm sugar (if necessary). The secret is to balance the sweetness and the saltiness. Be sure not to over-salt! Bring to a near-boil, then add the green chile and water chestnuts. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Assembly time:

In a small bowl, dissolve the tapioca starch into ¾ cup of water.

Bring the soup to a full boil. Adjust seasoning. Mix the tapioca starch liquid one more time and add it to the boiling broth to prevent the starch from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Continuously stir the broth as it will thicken very quickly. Add the tofu skin, the King oyster mushrooms and wood ear mushrooms. Add the tofu and 2 tablespoons of cilantro. Check the texture of the sauce; it should be thick and syrupy. If you find the sauce to be too thick, add more water. Cook for about 2 minutes. Stir gently so the tofu doesn't fall apart. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Finish with black pepper.

Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!


The broth should be made in 4 steps in this order: sour, salt and sweet. It's very important that you taste the broth at every step to ensure a balance of flavors. The last step is to thicken the broth with tapioca starch. 

Oyster Mushrooms with Picture
You can find king oyster mushrooms in Asian stores.  

You can find fresh yuba (also known as tofu skin or bean curd skin) in the fresh food aisle of any Asian markets in the Bay Area of California.

You can find wood ear mushrooms in most Asian stores. If you can't find any, you can use any other mushrooms such as shiitake or enoki mushrooms.

Silken tofu can be found in grocery stores now but I prefer those from the Korean or Japanese stores. I find its texture to be creamier. Make sure you check for silken soft tofu and not firm on the package. I bought it at a local store, called Galleria. If you live in the Bay Area, the address is 3531 El Camino Real, Sant Clara, CA 95061.

We're very lucky to be able to get kaffir lime leaves from our garden. They're very useful and smell so nice. If you have the space to plant a kaffir lime tree, go for it; it's a good investment if you like Asian cooking.

You can find fresh water chestnuts in most Asian markets. You could also use the canned version.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on June 12, 2012.


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