Rich with contrasts, Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup (Canh Chua Ca) is easy to like. The tamarind and pineapple provide a sweet-and-sour edge, while the okra, tomato, and bean sprouts offer spongy, soft, and crunchy textures. The catfish and cumin ground the dish with their pungent, earthy qualities. If rice paddy herb (rau om) is available, use it for a citrusy accent.
Sour fish soups are eaten throughout Southeast Asia. Vietnamese Food often includes sliced taro stems (bạc hà), a flavorless ingredient known for its ability to absorb other flavors. I generally omit the stems because they don’t contribute much to the soup, and instead increase the amount of okra, which is added at the end. If you can’t find fresh okra, use frozen whole okra, thawing it and slicing it before you add it to the pan. When fresh or frozen pineapple isn’t around, don’t resort to canned. It is not the same. Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup Recipe (Canh Chua Cá) will be a bit tangier but equally sensational without the pineapple.
For sour shrimp soup (canh chua tôm), use ¾ pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, instead of the catfish. Also, the pineapple is not optional. You need it for the extra flavor boost it delivers.
See more Vietnamese Food in Soup: Vietnamese Opo Squash Soup (Canh Bau Recipe)