Recipe For Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Fish and Pineapple Soup)


Can chua cá literally means sour fish soup in Vietnamese.The composition of the soup is the Vietnamese equivalent of tom yum Thai soup.  The sour flavor is from the kaffir lime leaf and tamarind powder and the sweetness is from the crushed pineapple.

Recently, I made this soup for our dinner guests. I served it with a side bowl of steamed jasmine rice. At the end of the meal, I was surprised to see all the bowls completely empty, given that the flavors are somewhat unusual. But they seemed to love it, so I’m guessing you might as well.

1. Info for Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Fish and Pineapple Soup)

  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Servings: 8
  • Calories: 706 kcal

2. Ingredients for Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Fish and Pineapple Soup)

  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, torn in 4
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp sea salt, to taste
  • 1 Tbs canola oil, use a neutral oil like peanut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs Tom-Yum paste
  • 2 stalks bạc hà, see tips
  • 2 whole fresh pineapples
  • 3 Tbs tamarind powder
  • 3 Tbs brown sugar, if necessary
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2 cups okra pods (optional), sliced in thirds
  • 1 bunch enoki mushrooms
  • 2 dozen straw mushrooms, quartered
  • 15 oz snapper fish fillets
  • 2 red Thai bird chili, cut in thirds
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup ngò gai, see tips
  • 1/4 cup ngò om, see tips

3. Directions:

  1. Peel the pineapples. Slice into 1-inch chunks. In a food processor, blend one pineapple into a fine puree. Add about 2 tablespoons of water if necessary to get a smoother flow. Keep the second pineapple as is. Set aside.
  2. Slice the bạc hà into thin pieces, cutting on the bias. Set aside.
  3. Wash the lemongrass; cut each stalk into 2-inch pieces and bruise the pieces with a hammer.
  4. In a 5-quart stockpot, bring 1-1/4 quarts of water and the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the kaffir lime, black peppercorns, pineapple puree and lemongrass. Cook for 30 minutes. Strain in a sieve. Discard the aromatics but keep one stalk of lemongrass and a few kaffir lime leaves for presentation in your soup tureen at the end. Pour the strained broth back into the stock pot.
  5. In a small pan, heat 2 teaspoons of oil and add the straw mushrooms. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add the enoki mushrooms. Transfer to a plate and set aside. In the same pan, add the rest of the oil, add the chopped garlic and the chili pieces. Cook until slightly golden. Add the tom yum paste and a ladle-ful of the broth. Pour all the contents of the saucepan into the big stock pot. The broth should be fragrant and properly seasoned.
  6. Check for the sourness of the broth. Add the tamarind powder. Taste. Add the salt. Taste. Then finish with the sugar if necessary. The secret is to balance the sweetness and the saltiness. Be sure not to oversalt!
  7. Bring the soup back to a boil then add all the mushrooms,okra (if using), tomatoes and bạc hà. After adding the ingredients, the broth may cool a bit. Let it come back to a  boil for a last time, then add the fish. Cover for 5-8 minutes, then remove the pot from the stove.
  8. Garnish with some ngò gai and ngò om. Add nước mắm (fish sauce) if necessary. It’s ready! Serve immediately.
  9. Accompany the soup with a bowl of steamed jasmine rice. Each person spoons some rice into the bowl of canh chua.
  10. Bon appéti

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