Fragrant Hot and Sour Soup served in a red Chinese Soup bowl on a wood table.

Fragrant Hot and Sour Soup

Fragrant hot and sour soup is both delicious and exotic.  This authentic tasting Chinese soup is flavored with sesame and chili oil, white pepper and black vinegar.


Fragrant Hot and Sour Soup, known as Sanrantan (サンランタン) in Japan is a delicious soup that uses vinegar, chili oil, and white pepper to provide the signature flavor.  The fragrance is provided mostly by sesame oil although many other ingredients contribute to both the flavor and the aroma of this favorite.

Have you ever been to a restaurant and ate something delicious that you wanted to make at home for yourself?  For me, it was Hot and Sour Soup.  The fragrant aroma and delicious taste was something I always wanted to reproduce. I was able to find some recipes but nothing that really got me to the taste I was after. Over time I was able to find a starting recipe and refine it to where I think it is darn close to perfect.

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup is flavored with Chinese Black Vinegar to give it  a sour taste, and white pepper to give it the heat.  You can add more or less of either ingredient to suit your own taste.  There is also sesame oil and chili oil in the soup which imparts a very fragrant aroma to the dish.  Hot and sour soup also includes lilly buds which are purchased dry and have to be rehydrated, and wood ear mushrooms (a black fungus that grows on trees) which can be purchased dehydrated dry or fresh.

In Japan, Fragrant Hot and Sour Soup often is poured over udon noodles and served as a complete meal.

The soup itself is very easy to make and takes just about 30 minutes to cook once you have all the ingredients.  I highly recommend this exotic and delicious soup.  Give it a try and let us know what you think!

(Originally published November 2021, Updated November 2022)

Fragrant Hot and Sour Soup (Sanrantan -サンラアタン)

Fragrant hot and sour soup is both delicious and exotic. This soup starts with soup stock heated over a medium flame which is brought to a light boil. Ingredients are gradually added until the soup is complete.

It is wonderful topped with scallions and fresh cilantro and it can be eaten as a main course, or served with fried rice, steamed dumplings, egg rolls, or any other Chinese dishes.

You can also serve it with some extra white pepper, sesame oil or chili oil and let your guests add their own.

There are quite a few substitutions that can be made. Check the notes for more details.

10 mins 20 mins Serves 4
PREP 10 mins
COOKING 20 mins
YIELD Serves 4
Fragrant Hot and Sour Soup served in a red Chinese Soup bowl on a wood table.


  • 4 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable stock (800ml)
  • 1/2 cup Chinese Black Vinegar (100ml)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chili oil
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 5-6 large wood ear mushrooms, also known as cloud ears (if dehydrated, soak in hot water for 1 hour before preparing), then cut in slices
  • 25 dehydrated Lilly buds (5g), (placed in hot water, allow the water to cool, and then refrigerated in water overnight).
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut in thin slices
  • 1/4 lb fried or firm tofu, cut in thin slices (100g)
  • 1/4 lb roast pork, cut in thin slices (100g)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 bunch of enoki mushrooms, with bottom removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 TBSP katakuriko (potato starch), dissolved in hot water
  • Fresh cilantro to taste


  • In a large Stock Pot, heat the stock over medium heat for about 5 minutes and bring to a light boil.
  • Add in Wood ears, Lilly, and shiitakes.  Continue to cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, returning to a light boil.

  • Add in pork, tofu and enoki. Continue to cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, returning to a light boil.

  • Add in black vinegar, white pepper, sesame oil, and chili oil.  Continue to cook over medium heat for 3 minutes returning soup to a light boil.

  • Add in egg gradually while stirring the soup in a circular direction.  The egg will form light strands.

  • Add in 1/2 of the scallions and mix in lightly.

  • While still boiling, add some of the potato starch mixture and stir.  Add just enough until the soup reaches the desired thickness.

  • Serve.  Top with scallions and fresh cilantro.


  • This soup is packed with ingredients.  If you want a little more broth you can add additional base.  The ratio is 8 parts broth to one part black vinegar.  You will also need to add additional white pepper, chili oil and sesame oil to taste – every 2 cups of broth this recipe uses 1/2 tsp of each of those three ingredients.
  • This version of the soup is family friendly and not too spicy where children cannot eat it.  To heat it up, add an additional 1 or 2 tsps of ground white pepper.
  • When rehydrating wood ears and Lilly buds you need to soak in hot water for at least 20 minutes before cooking.  However, I recommend letting them sit in the water in the refrigerator overnight to soften them up.

  • You can use any type of beef, vegetable or chicken stock as the base.  This recipe has no extra added salt because it gets that from the stock.
  • You can use beef, pork, chicken or seafood.  The dish can be made vegetarian-friendly and you can use extra tofu and omit the meat altogether.  There is also egg used in the dish which can be omitted and additional potato starch added.



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