As I unwind myself after work on a Saturday afternoon, I gazed towards my window and watched as the snow began to flutter down and lightened the concrete pavement. My stomach began to crave for a bowl of Canh chua, or the Vietnamese Sweet, Hot and Sour Soup. It is the perfect remedy for the cure of any stuffy noses!
A bowl of Canh Chua is a sour soup indigenous to the Mekong River region of southern Vietnam. It is typically made with fish from the Mekong River, pineapple, tomatoes, and bean sprouts, in a tamarind-flavoured broth. It is garnished with the lemony-scented herb ngò ôm (Limnophila aromatica), caramelized garlic, and chopped scallions, coriander), and Thai basil.
The sour taste of the soup comes from tamarind, which is mixed with a small amount of hot water; the mixture is then stirred for a few moments to release all the essence, and the liquid is then added to the soup.
Since this urge for the soup was spontaneous, I had to improvise with the lack of tamarind and fresh Thai hot chili, and replaced it with fresh lime juice and Tabasco.
~ Vietnamese Canh Chua with Shrimp ~
8 ounces medium shrimp
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup, plus 1 teaspoon nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 stalks fresh lemongrass, white bulb crushed and sliced
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tablespoons sugar
Juice of 1 fresh lime
1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
1 bunch Chinese celery, cut into 2 inches in length (can be replaced with regular celery, but I just love the flavour and the intense aroma of Chinese celery)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, chopped garlic, and pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a 3 quart sauté pan. Add the shallots and lemon grass and sauté briefly without browning. Add the tomato and sugar and cook over medium heat until slightly soft. Add the pineapple and celery and cook stirring for about two minutes.
3. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the lime juice, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup fish sauce. Turn heat down, and simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Stir in bean sprouts and the shrimp. Cook for about 30 seconds, than remove from the heat and allow to sit for about 30 seconds to 1 minute more, or until the shrimp is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp here.
4. Add cilantro, black pepper and Tabasco, and serve.