I live in Norfolk, Virginia.
In 1972, a new Chinese restaurant opened in Norfolk.
This was the first Chinese restaurant to break the mold from the usual Cantonese style of cooking and offer a number of selections from the Mandarin, Szechuan, and Hunan styles.
It was here that I had my first bowl of Hot & Sour Soup. It was love at first taste. The stuff was wonderful.
For over ten years, I indulged myself in a weekly bowl of Hot & Sour Soup at this restaurant. Until the owner decided to retire from the business.
Ever since this restaurant closed down, which was about twenty years ago, I have probably tasted hundreds of bad Hot & Sour Soup. Eventually, it got to the point where I stopped ordering it altogether. I figured that maybe I had just lost the taste for Hot & Sour Soup and that maybe it was never as good as I thought it was.
In other words, I placed the blame on myself, for having a naive or unsophisticated sense of taste. Perhaps, Hot & Sour Soup was just another one of those "gringo" Chinese menu offerings, like Egg Foo Yung and Sweet & Sour Pork, and that it served me right for expecting something special from an order of Hot & Sour Soup.
In my area, which includes the cities of Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach, there are over a hundred Chinese restaurants. I have tried most of them. And in most of them, the Hot & Sour Soup is downright bad. In about three of them, it is passable.
But again, I figured it was just me and my unsophisticated sense of taste.
Until......I went to Las Vegas this summer. I spent months researching from the internet what might be the best Chinese restaurants in Las Vegas. I ate at five of them. And guess what? In all five of them, the Hot & Sour Soup was incredbily delicious. My sense of taste was vindicated.
Each bowl I tried has a rich thick broth, with all the right ingredients, with fresh tofu, whose wonderful little tree fungus thingies, and the flavors came through wonderfully. I had not tasted such wonderful Hot & Sour Soup in nearly 30 years. And this was at five different restaurants.
These Hot & Sour Soups were not exact clones of each other, either. Each one was a little different. But each one of them was absolutely delicious.
Do any of you experience any frustration in finding good Hot & Sour Soup in your area? If so, take heart. There is some great Hot & Sour Soup to be found in Las Vegas that will restore your faith.