Vegetarian Concoctions

February 23, 2007

Hot and sour soup

A Chinese soup. Well, Indo-chinese to be precise. Chinese was the first international cuisine to crop up in India with the ever famous hakka-noodles, manchurians and chow-meins. They had the same chinese names, but the flavour was suited to the typical Indian tongue – hot and spicy. I have, till date not visited a chinese restaurant in the USA. The reason – within the first few days of my arrival, I was enlightened by some of my fellow Indian-students who got here before me, on various food issues for a vegetarian in the USA.

First of, Chili is not chilli but beef. Always notice the number of ‘L’s in the word. (The restaurant ‘chilis’ caught my attention soon after I arrived and was dissapointed to find out what the word actually meant. The red chilli logo was decieving too. I have never visited chilis either.) Pepperoni toppings on pizza can very well be misunderstood for tomatoes. Hot dog is not actually dog meat. Chinese is not the Chinese we get in India – very very bland here. Thai food is closer to IndoChinese food than Chinese.

Based on the vital advices of my seniors, I drew lines on where to eat and where not to. I have now realized that the Chinese we get in the US is lot more authentic than what we get back home. In fact Indo-chinese is an entirely different cuisine. I have seen menu cards at Chinese restaurants and a lot of dishes look and sound delicious and the best part of all is that, they carry a number of vegetarian items too. Who cares if it is bland? I can always add an extra splash of hot sauce to my order. So, once I convince my husband, we will be heading out to a good chinese restaurant soon.

Until then, I shall seek solace in the taste I believed to be Chinese. This recipe for hot and sour soup is adapted from the my new recipe book – Tarla Dalal’s Chinese recipes. (BTW did you know she has her own blog now?) As always, I checked the list of ingredients and put in my own measurements with a few additons and subtractions:


Shredded carrots and cabbage – 2 cups

Spring onions – 10-12 stems

Soya sauce – 1 tbsp

Balsamic vineger – 2 tsp

Cornflour – 1 1/2 tbsp

Grated ginger – 1 tsp

red chilli flakes – 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)

oil – 1 1/2 tsp

sugar – 1/2 tsp

salt to taste

pepper to taste

Ajinomoto (optional) – a pinch

Thai peanut sauce – 1 tsp

Mix the cornflour with a little water. Switch your stove to the maximum heat level and let your pan heat up till it is scotching hot. Add the oil and immediately the veggies. Saute for a minute and add the red chilli flakes, ginger, sugar, salt and the ajinomoto. Add 2 cups of water and reduce your flame to medium heat. Add the soya sauce and the cornflour. My secret ingredient – Thai peanut sauce. Just a tsp to soften the flavor of the soya sauce. Taste for salt and heat and add pepper accordingly. Let this simmer for a couple minutes and you are ready to serve it.




  1. I had a similar ‘enlightenment session’ after I came here !! I went to chilli’s last week and had Caesar salad !!
    The soup looks great…will try it out soon, only y’day a frnd of mine and I made some Chinese fried rice and were trying to see what would go into a full course Indo-Chinese meal.

    Comment by Priya — February 23, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

  2. Thats a nice soup. I have to try this. Thanks Hema 🙂

    Comment by jaspa — February 23, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  3. Thats a warm soup..i have all the ingredients right now..might give it a try..

    Comment by maheswari — February 23, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  4. Oooh! This is my fav soup when we go to Chinese! Real chinese hot and sour soup with lighter color and white egg streaks!YUM!!
    This looks great too with Indian twist.Thanks Hema.
    I love Chili(with ground beef) and I make the best Chili.May be some day,I will post it.Vegetarians can add Soya chunks or flakes.

    Why did Tarla Dalal added Thai peanut sauce to Chinese soup?Just being creative ,I guess.

    Enjoy the soup and you can send this to Alanna’s Feb’s “Soup’s on” event,info on my sidebar.

    Comment by asha — February 23, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

  5. Hema, that’s an appetising soup! I have everything on hand except the Thai Peanut sauce…Let me see if I can subsitute it with some thing else…I am making this today!

    Comment by Chandrika — February 23, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

  6. Hi hema
    hot and sour soup is mu hubby’s favurite.i have seen this recipe in jyothsna ‘s blog also..have to try this at home.thanks for sharing dear…

    Comment by swapna — February 23, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

  7. thank you so much for this vegetarian version of hot and sour. I’ll look forward to making it. Thanks, Hema!

    Comment by kitchentable — February 23, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  8. Hi Hema,
    Hot and sour soup looks good.. I too have everything with me except the thai peanut sauce.. will soon try it out .. thanks for the recipe and Iam glad it is vegetarian.

    Comment by prema — February 24, 2007 @ 12:34 am

  9. Hi Hema,
    Hot and sour soup is one of my favorites :)For the vegetarian version of any foreign cuisine I too rely on Tarla Dalal:)
    You have mentioned Thai peanut sauce, is it a thickish paste?

    Comment by archana — February 24, 2007 @ 3:46 am

  10. even i used to get confused with pizzas and chil’l’ies:) thank god for green dots now:) we can differenciate between them now:)
    soups r best for this time of the year and this soup has always been one of my fav especially when i have cold.

    Comment by sia — February 24, 2007 @ 8:14 am

  11. That looks delish. Thanks for checking on me, Hema. First kids fell sick then it was our turn. Will start blogging soon.

    Comment by krithika — February 24, 2007 @ 3:23 pm

  12. I also had a great disappointment with the Chilies restuarant and the red chillies they had….you just reminded me of those old days when I first tried the not so spicy resturants in US…:-(

    Love soups and your version looks great…hot n sour…delicious

    Also hema, I have heard ajinomoto is not good for health..but not 100% sure so i generally avoid it.


    Comment by Sushma — February 24, 2007 @ 4:54 pm

  13. What a great looking soup, Hema! Love hot and sour — will definitely have to try your version 🙂

    Comment by outofthegarden — February 24, 2007 @ 9:51 pm

  14. The soup looks wonderful Hema, Thanks for sharing.
    But have you noticed that some of the “Chinese” Chinese restaurants now offer buffet (at least in NJ) which also has a wonderful array of dishes. I also found them pretty balnd initially, but now love some of their stuff.
    But I am not sure about the vegetarian items though

    Comment by sandeepa — February 25, 2007 @ 1:40 am

  15. Hi Hema…
    Indo-Chinese is such a treat for me…and you’re right, the Chinese stuff they sell here really is bland.I love Veggie Lo-mein though!

    When we lived in Tampa, we often went to this restaurant called P.F.Chang’s. It is very classy,and if you want chinese food that is decent, try it. I recommend the Veggie Lettuce wraps and the eggplant dish.


    Comment by Trupti — February 25, 2007 @ 8:54 pm

  16. Hi Hema, Ur soup looks soo beautiful.Pls ladle some into my bowl too 😉


    Comment by Mishmash! — February 26, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  17. nice story. i guess we all have similar experiences. singapore, and then china, opened my eyes (not to mention palate) to authentic chinese food. but i do crave for indian chinese food every now and then. there’s a lovely place (would have been lovelier but for the high msg content) called indian wok in singapore that serves up some nice dishes like yours.

    Comment by jacob — February 27, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  18. @Priya
    Was it good? Caeser salad I mean. Let me know how the soup turned out if you ever try it.

    @Jaspa, Maheshwari, Linda, kitchen table, Prema
    Hope you like it. Thanks!

    Peanut sauce was my addition. I was trying to be creative:)

    Peanut sauce is not a part of the original recipe. i like it, so added it.

    will look into Jyothsna’s recipe too. Thanks.

    Yes, I have heard of MSG being ‘not-so-good’ for health. I bearly use a pinch in my Chinese and thai preps. Justa s taste enhansers. But as i have mentioned, it is totally optional. I may probably give up using it if I hear something real bad about it.

    Buffet seems to be a good option for my first Chinese restaurant visit. Will check up for veg items beforehand. thanks.

    We have a P.C.Chang here and a friend was talking about the veggie wrap too. Hmmm….thats where I am going next.

    You are welcome to have as much as you please

    Singapore and China. You sure have had the most authentic chinese. Try this without MSG. you will like it for sure.

    Yes, the green dot makes life easier for vegetarians. I dont thing the pakaged food in the US has such markings.

    Hope you all are feeling better now. Take your time dear. Will wait for you comeback post.

    Thai peanut paste is a bottled paste that is available in stores in the USA. It can be made easily at home. There are various recipes online. Check it out.

    Comment by Hema — February 28, 2007 @ 10:37 am

  19. I tried this couple of days back and it came out superb. I got rave reviews from my friends who tasted it. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. Thinking that we use to go to Hot Wok just to have this soup is making me feel stupid!Never knew it was so easy!

    Comment by Manjula — January 27, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  20. Nice Information. Thank you for sharing and I want to share information about Tandoori Dragon, a Indian-Chinese Cuisine in Hackensack, Paramus, Saddle Brook and Maywood NJ, realizes the growing popularity of Indian Chinese cuisine.

    Comment by Tandoori Dragon — October 16, 2013 @ 6:54 am

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