Vietnamese canh chua is a classic soup that I love to eat but it’s also the most difficult of all homestyle soup to cook. The trick is knowing how to balance out the sourness of the tamarind with salt and sugar so when you eat this soup, it’s not too sour, too salty, nor too sweet. I have a high tolerance for sour food so when I make this soup, it’s always too sour for my mom and husband. I used to use tamarind pulp but because tamarind pulp can sometimes be naturally semi sweet or super sour, my seasoning for salt and sugar is not very balanced. Mom helped me figure out a formula to help me cook for the family using just the Knorr tamarind soup mix and it came out just as good like the way she cooks with the tamarind pulp. I hope it will help you too.
My biggest problem when cooking canh chua is that it starts out from with a 6-quart pot, to an 8-quart pot, then sometimes transferred to a 10-quart pot because of all the vegetables I added. LOL! So I came up with my measuring system to set my limit of vegetables in order to fit into this 6-quart pot. Thank goodness.
1 gallon of water (about 3 L)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tsp vegetable oil
5 1/2 tsp Knoor tamarind soup mix (see picture)
8 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp salt
3 Thai chilies
small bowl of fresh sweet pineapples
small bowl of mixed sawtooth and ngo om herbs
small bowl of tomatoes
small bowl of heart of celery
small bowl of large shrimp with red heads
big bowl of enoki mushrooms
big bowl of cabbage head leaves
big bowl of edible elephant ears
Note: I’ve always use okra when cooking this soup with shrimp. You can add okra by substituting with the elephant ears or downsizing the bowls…as long everything fits into those bowls, it would be still good. At least I don’t have to transfer into a bigger pot.
1. Prep (peel and/or cut) the pineapples, tomatoes, cabbage leaves, elephant ears, enoki mushrooms, and heart of celery. Here’s how I prep the elephant ears, heart of celery, and enoki mushrooms.
2. Prep the shrimp. Leave the shell and head on. Devein the shrimp by inserting a toothpick through the end of its back and pull out the black waste tube. Mom calls it “shrimp poop”. Not sure if there’s a fancier way to call that. Cut the sharp ends of the shrimp head off (optional). I do this because I don’t like the head poking my fingers when I try to suck the head.
Get ready to cook once you have all your ingredients! This will only take about 20 minutes or less to cook this soup. Set your timer!
4. Immediately pour in the gallon of water and add the pineapples. Then measure out the seasoning mixture with 5 teaspoon tamarind soup mix, 8 tablespoon sugar, and 2 tablespoon salt. Pour the seasoning mixture into the pot. Wait for broth to boil.
Always season the canh chua broth before you add in the vegetables and shrimp.