I don’t think I can start a blog post about a recipe for a Vietnamese dish without saying that I have the fondest memories of eating this dish growing up.
You don’t realize the impact that childhood dishes have on you until you’re older and can reflect back. I don’t think my parents realized the dishes they repeatedly made for us would have that long-lasting impact either. When I make or eat these dishes. I grew up with, I feel so content. It’s extremely comforting and of course, very delicious. I know it is bringing my mom a lot of joy when I ask her to show me how to make dishes she used to make for me as a kid/teen.
Now I posted a recipe for Vietnamese Canh Chua (Sour Soup) with Ling Cod on my Instagram last year (2019) but recently got to thinking, why isn’t this on my blog? So I’m rectifying that now with this post.
Growing up in a Vietnamese household, there was always some kind of ‘canh’ (soup) with our meals. My mom to this day will lecture me if I am not including canh in the meals I make with Mike. It’s like how she says all Vietnamese households should have at least two sticks of cucumber in the fridge at all times, she also believes that all meals need to have some kind of soup to help balance out other dishes and settle your stomach.
A canh that we had a lot with our meals growing up was Canh Chua, a sour soup (sour thanks to tamarind spice), full of vegetables, and usually featuring some kind of fish. In the case of this recipe, Ling Cod!
Now in Vietnamese cuisine, the canh is rarely the main dish. You’ll likely have rice, meat, and other side vegetables with your meal, as well as the canh. I like to sip and eat canh while I’m eating the rest of the dishes. I also like to save rice to have with the canh. It makes for some lovely textures in ya mouth, lol.
Below is my mom’s recipe for Vietnamese Canh Chua (Sour Soup) with Ling Cod.
Recipe: Vietnamese Canh Chua (Sour Soup) with Ling Cod
It should be noted that when my mom teaches me her recipes, she does not really give me firm measurements. It’s that classic mom “eyeball it” style of cooking (that I also utilize now too lol).
- Ling Cod (you can get just 2 pre-sliced or a whole fish)
- 2 tomatoes
- A stick or two of okra
- A stick or two of celery
- ‘Bac ha’ (taro stalk)
- ‘Rao om’ (rice paddy herb)
- ‘Ngo Gai Culantro’ (not cilantro but like cilantro) herb
- 1-2 red chilis
- Tamarind spice
- Fish sauce
Note: we get most of our Asian ingredients from Lucky 97 Supermarket in Edmonton’s Chinatown, though these ingredients should be at other Asian grocers like TNT and HMart.
- Clean your fish (we used ling cod but really any fish works, also shrimp).
- Wash and cut your vegetables: tomatoes, okra, celery, “bac ha” taro stalk, rao om (rice paddy herb) & ngo gai culantro (not cilantro, culantro lol) herb. Chop red chilis (1, 2 or more depending on spice tolerance). Set aside.
- Heat a pan with oil. Add garlic and cook fish for a few minutes on each side. Set aside. (If you use shrimp instead of fish you can just skip this step and toss shrimp in with broth directly without pre-cooking).
- Fill pot with water (how much broth do you want? You decide lol). Boil.
- Once pot is boiling put some tamarind powder in. (“some” lol again, you decide on your level of sour-ness). Like, a handful at first, then you can adjust.
- Add chilis 🌶, a few spoons of sugar and some scoops of fish sauce.
- Stir and taste to determine if you want to add more sugar or tamarind (tamarind makes it more sour, sugar makes it more sweet).
- Add vegetables (everything except the two herbs).
- Then add cooked fish to the pot (you could choose to chop up the fish before you put it into pot but we left ours whole and cut later when serving).
- Let fish simmer in pot for a bit, then add herbs as the last thing you do before you turn off or lower the heat.
- Serve! With rice and whatever other proteins (we had pork belly and green beans too). You can leave the fish in the soup or scoop it out on its own plate, drizzled or dipped in fish sauce.
And that’s how you make my beloved, childhood Vietnamese Canh Chua soup!
If you’ve had this growing up and are wanting to recreate it, I hope you enjoy all the comfort it will be bring!
If you’ve never tried this before, please do! I know you’ll love it (if you like sour and sweet-ish things lol)
Stay tuned as I hope to share more Vietnamese recipes courtesy of my mother!