How To Make Hot Sour Soup - Recipe by Claire Thomson

When I was working out in Chengdu in China a few years ago and living with my stepmother, Lily, it was Lily’s passion for soup making and eating that really got me into using an assortment of dried mushrooms in so many different broths, soups and braises that I cook here at home.

The wood ear mushroom is a case in point. Dried, this ingredient looks rather unremarkable. But, rehydrated, the wood ear plumps to a wonderful dark, lustrous ruffle of a fungus, with a chewy, almost slippery texture. Flavour-wise, wood ear is mild and earthy tasting. These mushrooms are a must if you want to add (and you absolutely must) some all-important texture to a soup such as this one.

Wood ear, sometimes sold as black fungus, can often be found in larger Asian supermarkets and Sous Chef has it too! Lily now lives in the UK and was thrilled to spot some wood ear growing on a damp, mossy log while on a foraging walk with a friend one day in Cornwall.

One Pan Chicken by Claire Thomson (Quadrille, £20), Photography by Sam Folan

Ingredients for Hot Sour Soup Serves: 4

  • 300g (10 ½ oz) boneless, skinless chicken (thigh is best), diced
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp caster (superfine) or light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn flour (corn starch)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp grated (shredded) fresh ginger
  • 1 carrot, coarsely grated, or cut into very thin matchsticks
  • 4 bamboo shoots (canned is fine), drained and thinly sliced
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, then drained and thinly sliced
  • 1 small handful of dried wood ear mushrooms, soaked in hot water for at least 30 minutes, then drained and thinly sliced
  • 1.5 litres (52fl oz) chicken stock
  • 200g (3 ½ oz) soft tofu, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 3 tbsp black rice vinegar, such as Chinkiang
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper (or use black pepper)
  • To serve: 2 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and finely sliced & 2 tsp sesame oil

How to Make Hot Sour Soup

  1. Mix the chicken with half each of the soy sauce, sugar and corn flour (corn starch).
  2. Heat the oil in a pot over a moderate heat, then add the chicken and fry for 5–7 minutes, until just cooked through.
  3. Add the ginger, carrot, bamboo shoots, and all the soaked and sliced mushrooms and cook for 1 minute over a high heat, then add the chicken stock, bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Mix the remaining corn flour with the remaining soy sauce and sugar and stir this slurry into the soup, along with plenty of freshly ground white pepper to taste. Cook, while stirring, for 2 minutes for the corn flour to thicken the soup. Add the tofu to the pot and warm through.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and add the black rice vinegar. Top with the spring onions (scallions) and drizzle with some sesame oil. Taste for salt and serve immediately.
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