East Bay Chinese Hot and Sour Soup?

So, in desperation and out of sheer laziness this evening, sent my husband to get hot and sour soup from Shen Hua in Berkeley. The first spoonful reminded me why I hadn’t gotten their hot and sour soup in years–it had a weird sweet taste, barely any heat, only a bit of sourness, and it used black pepper badly.

What I’m looking for is a soup that is actually hot and actually sour, with white pepper, wood ear mushrooms, lily buds, tofu and the like. Please no shrimp and, god, please no peas. I’ll accept chili oil, given my fond memories of a soup in Hong Kong with chili oil and pig’s blood, but I’d still prefer the white pepper version.

China Village’s tends to be bland, for some reason.

I’ve had the version from Gum Kuo in Oakland Chinatown a few times. The flavor is okay, but not intense enough and quite thin.

Frankly, it’s been years since I’ve gone on a hot and sour soup hunt since I’ve been disappointed so many times. Perhaps now that winter’s upon us again I should give it another go. Where are your favorites in the Oakland/Berkeley area?

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I agree that the CV version has become bland. King Tsin’s is much better, but I’m not sure they use white pepper.

I recently ordered “large” from Spices3! and got two of those quart tubs full of what I think of as an iconic hot and sour. White pepper, though perhaps not a lot, rather than chili oil or chili paste, sour, with egg, tofu and a little shredded pork. I don’t remember lily buds but could be wrong- I definitely had some fairly recently so maybe that was it. Thickened.

Not a ton of the solids but satisfying.

This is actually an easy soup to make at home. All the dried ingredients are easily obtained in Chinatown, and you get to control the white pepper/red (or black) vinegar to your taste. I’m not at home but I could post a recipe later if you’re interested. You’ll need good chix stock of course.

Thanks Ernie and Twocents; I think it’s time for a taste-off.

Essvee, I actually have a number of hot and sour soup recipes, but sometimes when the craving hits it’s just easier to do take-out.

Thanks for the recommendation, the soup saved the day after my root canal. Mine didn’t have pork or lily buds, and I added some fresh ground white pepper at home. The second tub went in the fridge and was congealed in the morning.

Felice, did you have the Spices 3 version? I did end up trying it and it’s fine. The flavor profile was what I was looking for, although it did lack depth and a certain punchiness. I added more vinegar to mine. Still have to try the King Tsin version.

Yes, I tried the spices 3 version. It could have used a touch extra vinegar but was also fine as it was.