This unusual tangy soup, canh chua ca,
can be found throughout South East Asia - with the balance of hot, sweet
and sour flavors varying from Cambodia to Thailand to Vietnam.
Chilies provide the heat, tamarind produces the tartness and, in Vietnam,
where it is the second most cultivated fruit (banana being the first), the
delicious sweetness comes from ripe pineapple.
Catfish, sea bass or red snapper, about 1 kg, filleted
Dried squid, soaked in water for 30 minutes
Spring onions (scallions), sliced
Fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped
Lemon grass, cut into strips and crushed
Thai chilies, seeded and sliced
Fresh pineapple, peeled and diced
Tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
Canned sliced bamboo shoots, drained
Fresh coriander, stalks removed, leaves finely chopped
Ground black pepper
Dill, fronds roughly chopped, for garnishing
Lime, cut into quarters, to serve
Garlic, finely chopped
Cut the fish into bite-size pieces.
Reserve the head, tail and bones for the stock.
In a bowl, mix together the marinade
ingredients and add the fish pieces. Toss until well coated, cover and
set aside. Drain and rinse the soaked dried squid.
Heat the oil in a deep pan and stir in the
spring onions, shallots, ginger, lemon grass and dried squid. Add the
reserved fish head, tail and bones, and saute them gently for a minute
or two. Pour in 1.2 liters of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the
heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain the stock into another deep pan and
bring the clear broth to the boil. Stir in the tamarind paste, chilies,
sugar and nuoc mam and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Add the pineapple, tomatoes and bamboo
shoots and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes.
Finally stir in the fish pieces and the
chopped fresh coriander, and cook until the fish turns opaque.
Season to taste and ladle the soup into
Garnish with bean sprouts and dill.
Serve with the lime quarters to squeeze
Hot and Sour :
Depending on your mood, or your palate,
you can adjust the balance of hot and sour by adding more chili or
tamarind to taste. Enjoyed as a meal in itself, the soup is usually
served with plain steamed rice but in Saigon it is served with chunks of
fresh baguette, which are perfect for soaking up the spicy, fruity,