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Sour Fish Soup

Canh Chua

Recipe by Jenny Lam

Canh Chua

Sour Fish Soup

Recipe by Jenny Lam

Prep Time

30 min

Cooking Time

20 min





A nation favourite and weekly family staple. Every Viet family will have their variation. But the sweet sour broth is always its signature.


500g fish fillets cut into 10cm pieces
1 whole fish chopped into 4 steaks
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
½ tbsp vegetable oil
1-2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
½ cup of pineapple, finely chopped*
2 tomatoes, each cut into 6 wedges
20g tamarind puree or powder
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup sugar
1 cup okra, Chinese celery or elephant’s ears
2 cups bean sprouts


Rice paddy herb

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Rinse the fish under cold water and leave in a colander to drain while you prep the vegetables.

In a small frypan, cool the garlic in the oil on very low heat until evenly golden, and set aside.

Place a large saucepan on the stove and add 1.5L of water.
When boiling, add chilli and salt, then the fish. Skim off all impurities as they appear on the surface. Do this for five minutes while the water is still boiling.**

Add pineapple, tomato and tamarind powder. As it returns to boil, season with fish sauce and sugar.

Taste to check the balance of sweet, sour and savoury, and adjust according to preference — more sugar for added sweetness, tamarind for sourness and fish sauce for saltiness.

Add remaining vegetables and turn off the heat after a few minutes.

Garnish with the golden fried garlic and generous amounts of freshly chopped rice paddy herb.


*Fresh pineapple is preferable but canned pineapple in natural juice can be substituted.

**Never lower the heat at this point. If the water is not at boiling point, the impurities will not surface and be trapped in the soup, making it murky and non-fragrant.

If rice paddy herb is not available, simply omit.



If you cut the fish too small it will be overcooked. This is why Vietnamese traditionally use whole fish. If using fillets, just don’t cut them any smaller than 10cm.


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