Don’t ask what’s in the soup!

I don’t remember much from my first experience eating at a Chinese restaurant except for two things. The first was the paper wrapped chicken appetizer. I could have eaten a meal of them. The second was the soup. It was egg drop and I remembered it as unappealing and very, very bland. For a number of years after that I would skip any soup at a Chinese restaurant and try to double up on the appetizers.

In high school, I lived in Southern California and finally had access to decent Chinese food. I went to a local restaurant with a girlfriend and her family and we ordered the standard dinner. Appetizers were good. Salad was nondescript, but not bad. Then the soup arrived. It wasn’t egg drop. It was darker and had all of these weird things in it. I tried to pass, but was strongly encouraged to try it. I took another look and the black things in it looked like eel. I didn’t eat much seafood at the time and definitely did not eat eel. Plus there was this wispy white stuff in it.

Not wanting to look like I was afraid to try it (as the girlfriend’s family had dug right into the soup), I cautiously scooped up a bit of it and took a sip. It has a little kick and loads of flavor. Another scoop, this time getting some of the unidentified solids. Great taste. I ate the whole thing down. I tried not to think of what exotic thing could be in it. For many years after, I would always order the hot and sour soup and purposefully kept my ignorance about what was in it.

After I was married, I decided to make it on my own. Expecting I’d have to visit my local Asian food store and look for obscure ingredients, I was shocked to see it was made of all typical ingredients. And the eel? Wood ear mushrooms.

I’ll sometimes add some crunchy noodles in at the end.

Look. No eel!

I always buy the extra firm tofu and cut it into strips about one inch long.

You have to re-hydrate the mushrooms in hot water. After that, I always dice them, else you will get a very long piece of eel…I mean mushroom.

Cook everything up.

The white wispy stuff? Egg whites swirled in the pot.

Go ahead. Ask what is in it.


Prep Time: 15 mins |  Cook Time: 13 mins  | Servings: Servings: 4 | Difficulty: easy


  • 6 dried wood-ear mushrooms
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs chili-garlic sauce
  • 3 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp Asian (dark) sesame oil
  • ½ lb reduced-fat soft tofu, drained and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 8 ounce can bamboo shoots, drained and thinly sliced
  • 2½ Tbs cornstarch
  • 3 Tbs water
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 1 Tablespoon water


1. Combine dried mushrooms with enough hot water to cover by 2 inches in a small bowl; let stand 15 minutes, then drain.

2. Bring the broth, soy sauce, chili-garlic sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the drained mushrooms, tofu and bamboo shoots. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl; stir in about ¼-cup of the hot liquid, then return to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat; slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the soup while stirring in a circular motion. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Info:

Nutritional Information Per Serving Calories 115 Calories from Fat 25 Total Fat 3.25g Saturated Fat .5g Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 709g Potassium 557mg Carbohydrates 19g Dietary Fiber 2.5g Sugar 3.3g Net Carbs 16.5g Protein 8g


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Chinese, Eggs, kosher, Low Carb, Lunch, Recipes, Soup and Stew, Vegetable

Author:The Ranting Chef

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33 Comments on “Don’t ask what’s in the soup!”

  1. May 11, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    My husband loves this kind of soup. Me not so much. Can’t wait to try this out.


  2. May 11, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Very nice.


  3. May 11, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Love miso soup=the best


  4. May 11, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Yum…wish I had a bowl right now. On the list to try!


  5. May 11, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    I love this soup and usually order it when I’m at a Chinese restaurant. Mmm!


  6. Somer
    May 11, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    That’s my favorite soup! I remember when learning how to make it finding out about wood ear mushrooms too! Funny.


  7. May 11, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Looks delicious. I usually stick to miso soup, but this homemade recipe I would give a try.


  8. pharphelonus
    May 11, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Love sweet and sour soup. Thanks!


  9. May 11, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    I was once served a revolting-looking dish called something like Buddha’s Delight – it was gloopy and brown and slithery. Vegan, though, I was told. I couldn’t refuse without serious offence, so I tried it. I saw why Buddha fancied it. Utterly delicious – mainly mushrooms and lily flowers – still looked ghastly, but ignore the appearance and enjoy the flavour…
    (btw thanks for following!)


  10. May 11, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    One of my favorite soups. I agree that Egg Drop soup can be a bland, one-note flavor, but may i add that the slimy texture leaves much to be desired. Hot and Sour soup is the polar opposite. It is a textural pleasure and my first taste of it was a dare from my food-adventurer dad so that adds a warm memory to the warm soup. I usually use the fried won ton strips rather than the crispy noodles. Dad put a smidge of duck sauce in his, I usually go for a dab of light soy sauce and a spoonful of freshly chopped chives. YUM!


  11. May 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    Oh, yes. I actually measure a Chinese restaurant by its hot and sour soup. There is a restaurant called Fareast here that cooks H&S soup to order and it’s like none other. Then there is a Chinese buffet here called Panda Buffet (and they’re always out of panda by the way!) that’s H&S soup actually smells like wet dog fur. I know it falls into a horrible stereotype, and I really don’t believe there is dog by product in the soup or anywhere else in the restuarant, but I don’t go there because I can’t get the soup.

    Don’t know why I’ve never made tried to make my own before, though. Thanks!


  12. May 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    I never used to like those are one of my favourite kinds!


  13. May 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    I do love hot and sour soup. This looks great.


  14. Tanya Cain
    May 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Sounds tasty & simple to prepare. Also I am very pleased to see that your recipe includes low sodium ingredients.


  15. May 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    I’m so glad that you commented on my blog a few weeks ago. I really enjoy yours. Looking forward to trying to make this soup. I’ve never bought tofu. Never thought I would either. Gonna have to change that soon. I love hot and sour soup.


  16. May 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    Hot sour soup is great, the fungus is the best part!


  17. May 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    mmm, I love Hot and Sour soup. This looks like an easy and tasty recipe!


  18. May 12, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    Never touched the soup until I worked in Chinatown; there I got the lesson of what was really in it. I, too, judge a Chinese restaurant by its hot and sour soup. Never thought of making it at home; thanks for the recipe.


  19. May 12, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    Thanks for the ‘like’ on my website the other day–Thought I’d come over to see what this site is all about…now I want to eat everything! haha Great blog–I’ll be checking back for some of these recipes!


  20. Xenoia
    May 12, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    At a Chinese I almost always skip the soup. Not because it is bad but because I love the appetisers so much!

    You should try Thai Hot and Sour soup, or Thom Yam/Thom Ka. They do require a bit more effort in getting the ingredients together so you probably would have to visit an Asian store. But all three are very tasty and worth the effort! 🙂


  21. May 12, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    I’m going to have whip myself up a batch of this soup and try out the eel, erm mushrooms. Looks delish!


  22. May 12, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Oh I love this soup! And I really love Chinese mushrooms as well. This is excellent. I normally use Chinese mushrooms when I make our traditional Humba (pork stew) since they go very well together! But never tried it in a soup. Thank you for this Ranting Chef! 🙂


  23. May 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    Love this and it would be perfect with my Thai menu tonight. Bring some over?


  24. May 12, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Love the title! 🙂


  25. Karla
    May 12, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    So, what’s in the soup? 🙂


  26. Filipovsky
    May 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Thanks to you I just found the inspiration for dinner today 🙂


  27. May 15, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    I love hot and sour soup! My husband doesn’t like spicy things so much, but here’s to hoping he’ll like it as well.


  28. May 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    This looks great! We used to have a favorite Sczechuan place that had killer hot and sour soup, but it’s gone now. Maybe it’s time I made my own too. Thanks! 🙂



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