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Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup (Canh chua): A harmonious fusion of flavors

05/12/2023 43 views

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup is a dish that beautifully balances the sweet, sour, spicy, and salty elements, making it a beloved culinary tradition in Vietnamese households. Follow this guide to make it at home!

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup is a delicious dish for family dining

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup is a delicious dish for family dining (Source: Collected)

Do you want to explore the rich flavors of Vietnamese food? Don’t miss the opportunity to savor Vietnamese sweet and sour soup, a famous traditional dish in Vietnam. With bold spices and a tantalizing mix of ingredients, from seafood to vegetarian options, this soup is sure to impress from the very first taste. Here are the 5 top recipes that you can make at home!

1. Insights into Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

The Vietnamese sweet and sour soup (“canh chua” in Vietnamese) is one of the locals’ favorite dishes, consisting of the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. 

However, the preparation techniques vary depending on whether you want to prepare food for Vietnam’s Northern, Central, or Southern regions. Each region’s version is different in terms of taste and flavor.

1.1. In Northern Vietnam

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup from Northern Vietnam features a nice bite of acidic flavor and mild sharpness (Source: Collected)

Northern Vietnam canh chua has a natural sweetness derived from its nutritional combination of protein and plant-based components. The most popular options for protein are minced pork or several types of seafood (crab, fish, shrimp, cuttlefish…), while the vegetables include taro stems, bean sprouts, okra, multiple aromatic herbs, and so on.

The soup is balanced with a tangy touch from local ingredients such as dracontomelon, starfruit, tamarind, tomato, pineapple, etc. that provides a refreshing sour taste. People in the North typically use less or omit chili to avoid excessive spiciness, and sugar is not added to soup dishes as they prefer a natural, mildly sweet and sour taste. 

1.2. In Central Vietnam

This version of “canh chua” has the same robust taste found in other Central Vietnam dishes

This version of “canh chua” has the same robust taste found in other Central Vietnam dishes (Source: Collected)

Central Vietnam cuisine is characterized by bold and robust flavors, and so is their canh chua. As the region is home to many coastal areas, fresh seafood is abundant and incorporated into many delectable dishes, especially sour soup.

Ingredients like star fruits, pineapples, tomatoes, and pickled mustard greens bring tanginess and a bit of sweetness to the base of this canh chua version. Spiciness is indispensable in Central Vietnamese cuisine, so adding a pinch of heat will make the soup perfect.

While clams are quite signature, fish, shrimp, squid, and crab are also popular seafood options for central Vietnamese sour soup. Locals also add fermented fruits or vegetables to the sauce to overpower the fishy smell. This makes the broth very thick and tasty when fish and vegetables are added to it.

1.3. In Southern Vietnam

Southern Vietnam’s canh chua boasts various interesting flavors

Southern Vietnam’s canh chua boasts various interesting flavors (Source: Collected)

Canh chua is a typical Southern Vietnamese dish composed of different foods with varied tastes. It has a mildly sweet and sour flavor without being as spicy as in the Central region. 

The simple soup is made up of a blend of sour ingredients of preference, such as tomatoes, pineapples, tamarind, lime, gooseberries, korakuen fruits, fermented rice, vinegar, etc. The local people also spruce up the broth with sour leaves like “giang” leaves or ambarella leaves. 

Sweet and sour soup is versatile; almost any fish or seafood can be added, along with an assorted mix of other ingredients. This results in a delicious bowl of canh chua that epitomizes South Vietnam cooking – bold, differentiated, and tasty.

2. Nutrition and calories in Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup not only delights your taste buds but also provides a pleasant internal experience for your body (Source: Collected)

The Vietnamese sweet and sour soup brings together different tastes and has several health benefits. Packed with nutrients, a bowl of 151 calories for freshwater shark catfish, 187 calories for salmon, and 420 calories for red tilapia is a serving. 

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup not only delights the palate with its diverse flavors but also offers several health benefits. A bowl of this soup provides essential nutrients with different caloric content depending on the choice of ingredients, especially proteins. Typically, fish is the lowest-calorie option. For example, a serving with freshwater shark catfish contains approximately 151 calories, while salmon offers around 187 calories, and red tilapia contributes about 420 calories per serving.

This broth’s base is seafood broth, vegetables, and herbs, which contain a lot of natural sugar, vitamins, and amino acids. Sour fruits and leaves act as natural laxatives, thus adding some beneficial dietary fiber and helping in diuresis and detoxification.

Other components in the soup may include taro stems, onions, coriander, and other herbal products that assist in purifying the respiratory canal and curing sore throats. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup, rich in nutrients and herbal extracts, can also help improve immunity. 

>>> Explore: Vietnamese street food: 15 good-tasting dishes that can be hardly ignored

3. Easy Vietnamese sweet and sour soup recipes for a perfect balance of flavors

If you miss this dish on your trip to Vietnam, try this Vietnamese hot and sour soup recipe. It will make you feel like a master cook in your kitchen! Below are five authentic dishes that suit you, depending on your taste, and how to make Vietnamese sweet and sour soup.

3.1. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with shrimp

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with shrimp

Enjoy the flavors of this timeless Vietnamese sweet and sour shrimp soup, a delightful choice for seafood enthusiasts (Source: Collected)

For those looking for a traditional sweet and sour soup, try this version made with seafood. It is simple to prepare with straightforward ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 200g shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 100g of bean sprouts
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 100g of peeled and sliced taro stems
  • 5 peeled and cut okra pods
  • Water
  • Fish sauce, salt, sugar, garlic, and chili
  • Coriander and Chinese coriander

Instructions:

  • Chop the garlic and sauté it in a pot until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and pineapples, and fry them for about 3 minutes.
  • Add three tablespoons of fish sauce to the pot.
  • Put in water, tamarind, salt, and sugar. Mix well, and boil.
  • Place the shrimp in and allow them to simmer for a couple of minutes, then add taro stems, okra, and beans and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  • Season and adjust the taste to your preference.
  • Pour the soup into a bowl and garnish with chopped coriander and Chinese coriander.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice.

3.2. Vietnamese sweet and sour fish soup

Vietnamese sweet and sour fish soup is highly regarded as Vietnam's favorite version of this soup

Vietnamese sweet and sour fish soup is highly regarded as Vietnam’s favorite version of this soup (Source: Collected)

The most famous Vietnamese sweet and sour soup is “canh chua cá”. It is a tasty and nutritious soup with meaty fish, crunchy vegetables, and aromatic herbs in a savory broth. It is usually accompanied by white rice and provides a comforting combination of tastes – sweet, sour, hot, and salty.

Here are the ingredients and steps to make this delicious dish:

Ingredients:

  • Carp, snakehead fish, red tilapia, or any meaty fish of your liking (preferably fresh water fish)
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 pineapple
  • 1-2 tamarinds
  • Water or fish stock
  • Garlic, shallot, fennel, Vietnamese coriander (laksa leaf)
  • Salt, fish sauce, black pepper, chilies
  • Sliced okra pods, sliced taro stem, bean sprouts (optional)

Instructions:

  • Clean the fish properly, then marinate it for about 20 minutes with some salt, fish sauce, minced garlic and shallots to enhance the flavors and eliminate any unpleasant fishy smell.
  • Sear the fish to prevent the meat from flaking out when cooking the soup.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until they are soft.
  • When the fish is almost done, add water, tamarinds, and pineapple and cook for 5 minutes. Season the soup to your preference.
  • Take out the cooked tamarinds, mash them to extract the juice and flesh, then pour them back into the pot.
  • If you want to have a fiber-rich soup, incorporate okra pods, taro stems, and bean sprouts.
  • Bring the soup to a boil, then put in the chopped fennel and laksa leaf.
  • Garnish with chilies for a bold, spicy kick.

3.3. Vegetarian Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

Vegetarian Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

For vegetarians, this Vietnamese sweet and sour soup recipe is equally delicious and simple to make (Source: Collected)

Those who prefer plant-based options can also indulge in the delicious vegetarian-friendly version of Vietnamese sweet and sour soup. This herb-filled meal offers both delectable tastes and health-beneficial properties.

Ingredients:

  • 200g of tofu cut into small cubes
  • 100g of bean sprouts
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 small pineapple cut into bite-size pieces
  • 100g of peeled and sliced taro stems
  • 5 sliced okra pods
  • 2-3 tamarinds or dracontomelons
  • Water or vegetable stock
  • Salt, chopped garlic, and chili (optional)
  • Coriander, Chinese coriander and other fresh herbs of preference

Instructions:

  • Stir-fry the tomatoes and pineapple in a pot with a little oil until they become slightly tender. Add some salt for seasoning.
  • Pour in water or vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  • Add tamarinds or dracontomelons and salt, and let it cook for about 5 minutes or until the acidic fruits are soft.
  • Scoop out the tamarinds or dracontomelons and mash them. Add them back to the soup.
  • Add the tofu, okra pods, and taro stems. Season accordingly and boil for 5 minutes, then add the bean sprouts.
  • Serve hot, garnish with chopped coriander, Chinese coriander, and sliced chilies.

3.4. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with seafood

Seafood lovers will find this soup delectable and bursting with flavor

Seafood lovers will find this soup delectable and bursting with flavor (Source: Collected)

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with seafood, also known as Canh Chua Hai San, is one of the most sought-after dishes in coastal areas of Vietnam. This dish involves seafood such as shrimp, squid, fish, and other vegetables and herbs. For seafood lovers, this tasty soup is divine.

Ingredients:

  • 100g of prawn, peeled and deveined
  • 100g of squid, cleaned and sliced
  • 100g of crab meat stir-fried with rice wine
  • 1 tomato, cut into wedges
  • 1 small pineapple, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 100g of skinned and sliced taro stems
  • 30g of tamarind
  • Sugar, salt, fish sauce, garlic
  • Sawleaf, coriander, Chinese coriander

Instructions:

  • Cut the squid into bite-sized pieces and peel the shrimp. Marinate them with pepper and seasoning powder.
  • Stir-fry crab meat with white wine until fragrant, lightly marinating it with pepper.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan, sauté minced garlic, and stir-fry the seafood.
  • Meanwhile, boil 1 liter of water with 1 spoon of seasoning powder, 1/3 spoon of salt, 1/2 cup of tamarind juice, and 1 spoon of sugar for the broth.
  • Mix the seasoned seafood into the boiling broth, add some veggies, and then turn it off.
  • Finalize the dish by seasoning it with 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Add chopped cilantro and sliced chili for an extra burst of flavor.

3.5. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with pork ribs

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with pork ribs

Canh Chua Suon Heo, a delightful Vietnamese soup featuring succulent pork ribs, has gained immense popularity in Vietnam (Source: Collected)

Sweet and sour soup with pork ribs (canh chua suon heo) is a very delicious food from Vietnam. Pork Rib Soup is made of tender pork ribs blended with fresh vegetables and herbs in a wholesome broth.

Ingredients:

  • 500g of pork rib goodness.
  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 dried onions
  • 4-5 dracontomelons
  • Green onions and coriander
  • Fish sauce, salt, seasoning powder, pepper

Instructions:

  • Start by cutting pork ribs and blanching them in salted, boiling water. Marinate with 1/2 tsp seasoning powder, 1 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper for 15-20 minutes.
  • Next, cook the ribs on the stove until tender; skim off the foam for clear water.
  • Cut the tomatoes. Slice and finely chop the green onions and coriander. Then fry the dried onions, add 1/2 of the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon fish sauce, and cook until soft.
  • Boil dracontomelons in another pot, mash, strain to get the sour juice, and set aside.
  • Once the ribs are sufficiently stewed, add the sautéed tomatoes for color. Add the remaining 1/2 portion of tomatoes and bring it to a boil.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt, seasoning, and fish sauce, and adjust the sourness with dracontomelon juice until to taste.
  • Finally, include chopped coriander and green onions, turn off the stove, stir well, and serve.

If you want to experience the cultural Vietnamese cuisine, you should plan Vietnam travel to truly savor this gastronomic paradise. Vietnam, with its rich tapestry of regional dishes, offers a unique and delightful experience for food enthusiasts.

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With this guide, you will gain an overview and insights into the different ways of making Vietnamese sweet and sour soup in each region. This iconic soup is a great idea to make for dinner with your family, offering a delightful blend of flavors that characterize Vietnamese cuisine. Why not handcraft this beloved Vietnamese dish at home using the recipes provided above? Good luck!

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