Chongqing Hot and Sour Glass Noodle Soup (sun là fen) are as well-loved in China as the Hot and Sour Soup we’re familiar with in the United States.
This noodle soup is so well-liked that it has even been adapted for instant noodles. But you can’t beat the taste of a homemade version of this dish that you prepare yourself!
In addition, this dish is perfect for vegans and vegetarians. However, meat eaters will be satisfied.
What is Suan La Fen?
Chongqing’s specialty, sun là fn (lit. “hot and sour glass noodle soup”), is a bowl of glass noodles and an array of colorful toppings doused in a soup base layered with spicy, numbing, sour, and umami flavors. The result is a crunchy texture that is both slippery and silky, with intense bursts of flavor that both contrast and complement one another.
Noodles for this dish are traditionally made from a sweet potato starch batter extruded through a sifter/colander-like device. The vendors shape and cook the noodles by “running” the batter directly into boiling water.
For the sake of time, we’ll use a prepackaged variety of sweet potato glass noodles popular in Korea.
Summer Time Noodle Soup?
Why, then, am I requesting that you prepare a pot of Hot and Sour Glass Noodle Soup in the height of summer? We eat more raw foods like salads and fresh fruit during the summer. A/C and icy treats and drinks are also welcome.
According to TCM, exposure to such low temperatures can lead to the onset of dampness (shī qì), which can lead to a state of weakness.
As much as we may despise it, sweating is the quickest way to dry out after being wet. It’s amazing that even in the hottest and muggiest climates, people in Southeast Asia continue to enjoy the spiciness and sourness of foods like noodle soup.
Chongqing, in Sichuan Province, is notoriously humid due to its location. They use a lot of spices in their food. Who wants some hot pot?
After eating this Chongqing Hot and Sour Glass Noodle Soup, you will sweat a little bit, but that’s okay.
I take extra precautions during the summer to avoid getting wet, and I stress this to my daughters. During our time in Beijing, my TCM doctor told me that her mother, also a TCM doctor but now retired, never turns on the air conditioning or uses a fan. It sounds extreme, but the takeaway is that you should let yourself sweat occasionally.
For the record, this hot and sour glass noodle soup is delicious, and it has a bold, “in your face” character. No ambiguous tastes here. It has all the flavors you want—spicy, sour, and savory. However, feel free to tweak any seasonings to suit your tastes. The recipe, please!
The serving size in the recipe card is set for one person, but you can easily multiply or divide the ingredients to suit your needs. Proper adjustments will be made to the ingredient quantities!
- 3 tbsp. of roasted soybeans (or roasted peanuts)
- 100g of dried sweet potato noodles (3.5 oz.)
- 2 1/2 cups of low sodium stock (can be chicken, pork, or vegetable stock)
- 1 slice of ginger (minced)
- 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 tsp. of toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. of Sichuan chili flakes (or to taste; can substitute regular pepper flakes)
- 3 tbsp. of vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp. of Chinese black vinegar (or to taste)
- 2 tbsp. of light soy sauce (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp. of dark soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. of sugar
- 1/2 tsp. of Sichuan peppercorn powder
- 1/4 tsp. of white pepper
- 1/2 tsp. of sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. of chili oil
- 1/4 cup of pickled mustard stems (or any pickled vegetable you have on hand)
- 1 scallion (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp. of cilantro (chopped; or to taste)
- You can use roasted soybeans or peanuts from the store, but I recommend soaking dried soybeans for at least three hours before using them. Soak the soybeans overnight, then in a wok with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until fragrant and nutty. Take out of the pan and let cool to room temperature (leave any remaining oil in the wok to cook the rest of the dish). If you want to wok-fry peanuts, here are the steps for making the classic dish Wok Roasted Peanuts.
- A pot of water should be brought to a boil, and the noodles should be cooked in that water per the package’s directions. Although some brands recommend soaking the noodles for an entire day before cooking, you can get the same results by boiling them until they are tender (though still chewy). When done, drain and refresh under cold water. In other words, put aside.
- In a separate pot, bring your stock to a boil. The temperature should be kept at a low simmer. To substitute for stock, use water brought to a boil.
- In the bottom of your noodle bowl, combine the ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and pepper flakes, garlic, sesame seeds, and pepper flakes to the bottom of your noodle bowl. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil, which has been heated until it shimmers and lightly smokes, over the contents of the soup bowl. They’ll release a delicious aroma as they sizzle.
- Add the soy sauce, sugar, sichuan peppercorn powder, white pepper, sesame oil, chili oil, and vinegar to the frying ingredients and stir to combine.
- Add the hot stock and stir to combine. Mix in the cooked noodles and sprinkle with the pickled mustard stems, scallions, cilantro, and roasted soybeans or peanuts. Try it out to see if it needs more salt or pepper.