Vegan Hot and Sour Soup

I couldn't find a recipe that had the ingredients I wanted, so I melded five. While this tastes like a "rich" soup, it's very healthy and close to fat free. If you have tofu haters in your household, the soup stands without it. You'll also find it very quick to make, with most of the prep time for soaking the dried ingredients. Within the ingredients, the only one that is going to require a trip to your Asian market is the lily buds (stringy mystery vegetable matter in your restaurant bowl), which are dried for easy storage. For photos of the mushrooms, see the Cook's Thesaurus.

Prep time 25 minutes | Cooking time 30 minutes
Source: Ann Ray

The ingredients are added in two groups, then the seasonings, and finally the tofu and green onion. If you want to prepare it in advance, do everything up to the tofu and you can then freeze for later use (frozen tofu develops a spongy texture).

Rinse the dried ingredients and place in individual bowls of hot water for 20 minutes to reconstitute:

1/4 C cloud ear or wood ear mushrooms (or substitute fresh if you can get it)
6 medium dried Chinese black mushroom, AKA shiitake
1/3-1/2 C dried lily buds

In a large soup pot, bring to a simmer:

8 C vegetable stock (store bought organic is fine)

When the dried ingredients are finished soaking, cut the stems off the shiitakes and slice in ~1/8" strips. Cut the cloud or wood ears thinner, as they're mostly for texture (virtually no flavor). I also like to cut the long lily buds in half so they don't dangle off the soup spoon. Reserve the shiitake soaking water.

Add the mushrooms and lilies to the stock along with:

4 small red chili peppers, cut in half to remove seeds and then sliced in 1/8" pieces

Simmer for 10 minutes and then add the following ingredients for 10 more minutes cooking:

1/2 C julienned bamboo shoots
1 C julienned carrot
3/4 C celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal

When the veggies are cooked, add:

1 t white pepper (or to taste)
2 T toasted sesame oil

In a cup mix thoroughly and add slowly to the soup:   

2-4 T soy sauce
6 T red rice wine or red wine vinegar
3 T corn starch
mushroom water if needed to thin

Add the tofu and scallion, cook for a minute to warm the tofu, and serve: 

1 pound firm tofu, cut in 1/2-3/4" cubes
2 green onions (white and green) sliced thinly


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