Suan La Tang (Hot and Sour Soup 酸辣汤)
What is it?
Suan la tang, which means hot and sour soup, is often associated with Chinese takeouts. But in China, the soup is also hugely popular because it is packed with tangy, peppery and savoury flavours. The soup is usually made with chicken broth, along with vegetables like dried fungus, bamboo shoots as well as tofu. Vinegar, sesame oil and chilli oil and a dash of ground pepper is added to the soup before serving.
Why is it famous?
It is believed that hot and sour soup cured Yu Qian, a famous Chinese official from the Ming Dynasty. One day, after a trip to Shanxi, Yu, who had been fighting a bad cold for days, passed through Zhengzhou in Henan province where he ordered a hot soup. After eating the ‘hot and sour’ soup Yu sweated profusely. The next day, his sinuses cleared and he felt healthy and energetic again. The soup later became known by its simple but descriptive name.
According to theories of traditional Chinese medicine, the soup not only combines the healing abilities of chicken broth and the circulation-enhancing qualities of black fungus, the vinegar also aids digestion and promotes a healthy appetite. Ground pepper, too, helps boost blood circulation, which is especially helpful in cold weather.
Where to eat it?
Din Tai Fung, which is known for its Xiao Long Bao, is a great place to sample hot and sour soup. Address: Shop 306, 3/F, Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon; Tel: 852-2730-6928.
High-end restaurant Yi Dao in Shanghai also offers a luxurious version of the soup made with fresh seafood. Address: 99 Beijing East Road, Huangpu District 201A 2/F, Yifeng Waitanyuan, Shanghai; Tel: 86-21-6333-0383.
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