This is my favourite comfort soup to make. It’s a healthy combination of so many vegetables (pineapple, tomatoes, okra, taro stem (bac ha) and bean sprouts. The classic fish in Vietnam to use is Cat Fish but I prefer to go with fresh fish that I find – this time I used a whole salmon coho. The best part of the fish for the soup is the head (and tail) so if you want to live on the cheap, pick up some fish head (sometimes obtained for free or dirt cheap). This is my family’s recipe for Salmon Fish Soup. Andrea Nguyen‘s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen is also a good reference for this recipe and more.
You can find this dish in more traditional Vietnamese restaurants (no guarantees that the fast food Pho places will have it). In Vancouver, I loved it at Phnom Penh. In the Bay Area, there were so many: Vung Tau, Khanh’s Restaurant, Anh Hong to name a few. In Toronto, well the best place to have Canh Chua would probably be at my parents home.
Preparation Time: 20 min Chopping and Tamarind prep
Cook Time: 20 min
Total Time: 40 min
Servings: 6 portions I made double the portion (12 people) in a big pot since we had a whole fish but will just refer to half here.
Meal type: Soup
- 1 lb salmon steaks (or catfish and any fish head/tails)
- 4 oz tamarind pulp – this was my first time making tamarind concentrate from pulp+water but it is time consuming! Put about 4 tablespoons concentrate tamarind liquid
- 6 cups water
- 1 cup chunks of pineapple – frozen or fresh
- 1/2 lb okra – de-stem and cut in halves
- 3 stalks bac ha (taro stem)
- 2 tomatoes cut into wedges
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 2 sprigs culantro and Vietnamese rice paddy herb
- 2 sprigs cilantro
- 1 medium cooking sliced onion
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoon fish sauce – adjust with taste
1. To make the tamarind concentrate from tamarind pulp, take a look at this recipe. You can make this in bulk and freeze in ice cube tray or just buy tamarind concentrate which is what I usually do.
2. To separate the pulp and seeds as the paste reduce, we used a french press since we didn’t have a course mesh sieve. We ended up having to put some of that pulp back to get more than a few drops of concentrate tamarind.
3. In a pot, heat canola oil in medium heat and add onions until soft. There was a shortage in pots in the kitchen so we used a pan to cook the onion before pouring it into the pot.
4. Add tamarind concentrate, sugar, fish sauce, salt and water and bring to a boil.
5. Lower heat to low and add fish heads, fish steaks and pineapple and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
6. The remaining vegetables only need about 2-3 minutes to cook so add this when ready to serve. Add the okra , tomatoes, bac ha.
7. Add bean sprouts.
8. Add chopped up sprigs of culantro, cilantro and rice paddy herbs.
9. Take out the fish steaks onto a place and serve fish soup in a family style bowl.
Usually a Vietnamese dinner consists of jasmine rice and a few dishes, always finishing with a substantial soup. I’m a fan of just having this soup and rice as a complete meal since it’s so filling, delicious and healthy! Here’s how it could be served.