In last week’s Eat post, we made ca kho to or catfish braised in a clay pot. This week we will explore a companion dish called canh chua ca. This is a wonderful complex, yet simple soup. Vietnamese soup is a meal in itself and is usually eaten with rice and shared family style. This soup is traditionally made with the head and tail of a catfish or whatever fish that the family is eating that day. You can substitute the protein with shrimp, salmon or any other type of fish or seafood that you would like to eat.
There are two ingredients (bạc hà and rau om) that may be hard to find if there is not an Asian supermarket nearby or if it’s out of season. Bạc hà is the porous stem of a type of taro plant’s leaves with a sponge like texture when cooked. You can usually find it shrink wrapped in a styrofoam tray at your asian supermarket in the summer. Due to bạc hà’s porous stem, the stem soaks up the soup while maintaining it’s crunchy texture. This herb was not available when we made the soup for this post.
Rau om is basically fresh Vietnamese cumin. It is an herb that is grown in a rice paddy. You can find this in an asian supermarket as well. If this herb is not available, just omit it from the recipe. Do not use American dried cumin as it is a different taste altogether.
This recipe serves 4-6 people and has an easy rating on the level of cooking difficulty.
1/3 cup of fresh rau om (fresh Vietnamese cumin) light chopped- this is optional
1-2 stalks of bac ha (a type of taro plant) thinly sliced – this is optional. Remove the tough outer part of the stalk.
2 cups of bean sprouts
20-22 okra cut in half
2 stalk of celery cut into thin slices
1 large tomato cut into ⅛ chunks
1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks
1 whole korean green pepper for taste. Make sure you deseed it if you do not like spicy.
8 cups of water
2 lbs of catfish (head, tails and filet). You can also use just the filets of catfish or any other seafood
2 stalks of green onions
3 tablespoon of sugar
4 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 clove of garlic minced
1/3 cup of tamarind paste
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Part 1: Clean
In a large bowl, add 1 teaspoon of salt to the fish or any seafood. Mix and rub the salt with the filets. This will get rid of any fishy smell.
Rinse with cold water thoroughly
Part 2: Cook
In a medium pot, boil 8 cups of water and 1/3 cup of tamarind paste. Make sure you break up the tamarind paste into smaller pieces. This will help the tamarind dissolve quickly.
Once the tamarind has dissolved (about 15 minutes of boiling), use a slotted spoon or a mesh spoon to strain all the leftover tamarind into a bowl. Discard this.
Once the broth is strained of the tamarind, add the fish and turn up the heat to a boil.
Once the soup boils, skim the top of all the impurities.
Add 4 tablespoons of fish sauce, 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Add in all of the vegetables except for the beansprouts and the rau om.
In a small pan, lightly brown the diced spring onions, garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Add it to the soup and turn off the heat.
In a serving bowl, place the bean sprouts at the bottom. Add the soup to the bowl. Add the bean sprouts this way so the hot soup broth softens the bean sprouts just enough so they still have a crunch.
Garnish with some fresh green onions and the Vietnamese cumin.