Vietnamese Luffa and Spinach Malabar with Shrimp Paste Soup / Canh Mướp và Mồng Tơi với Tôm

Prep and cook in 60 minutes. I cook this soup in a 6-quart Hexclad pot.

Introduction:

Luffa (loofah) soup (canh muop) is a common home-style soup in a Vietnamese household. I grew up eating and cooking luffa with spinach malabar soup that my mom cooks. Mom ususally cook these two vegetables with dried shrimp or just plain chopped shrimp. She and I had the same problem when cooking this soup and that is no one likes to eat the fancy dried shrimp used for flavoring or the plain whole shrimp since the shrimp texture becomes overcooked and dry. The shrimp was just not an appealing taste. The broth is commonly seasoned with a simple combinations of dried shrimp, sugar, salt, and pepper, but no one likes that combination in my family. I like to experiment different ways to season the broth until I like the soup. I also started making a shrimp paste for the soup since my little man who loves shrimp if it’s tender. This is my son-approved recipe for loofah soup. I used smooth skin luffa for this pictorial recipe. I prefer and recommend using the angled luffa for this soup because it gives off a natural sweet taste in the broth compared to the smooth skin loofah varieties.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb spinach malabar leaves and tips
  • 3-5 young loofahs about 10-12 inches long

For the broth: Adjust seasoning along with water ratio

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 Tbsp Viet Huong fish sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp Quoc Viet’s Hu Tieu Soup Base
  • 1/2 Tbsp Wonton Soup Base
  • 1 Tbsp Lee Kum Kee chicken powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

For the shrimp paste:

  • 1 lb shrimp peeled
  • 2 Tbsp minced scallion
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallot
  • 1 tsp Viet Huong fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Lee Kum Kee chicken powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground black or white pepper
  • 2 tsp corn starch

Directions:

1. In a Kitchen Aid blender, add the shrimp and shrimp paste seasoning. Blend for a minute or until all ingredients are blended together into a paste. Transfer the shrimp paste into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Prep the broth seasoning mix. Set aside.

3. In a 6-quart pot, add in the 4 quarts of water and broth seasoning mix. Bring the broth to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, turn to medium heat.

4. I used a measuring tablespoon to scoop the sticky shrimp paste into the lightly simmering broth. It’s sticky so I rub my finger with some vegetable oil to help me remove the shrimp paste to drop it into the pot of soup.

5. Once all the shrimp paste has been dropped into the soup, try not to stir it to prevent the shrimp paste from breaking apart. Quickly add in the loofahs. Cook on light boil for about five minutes or when the loofah looks translucent. Then finally add in the spinach malabar. Cook for a minute. Turn off heat. Let the soup sit on the stove for about ten minutes before serving with steamed jasmine rice. Enjoy! Note: This simple soup pairs well with a savory Vietnamese (kho) dish.

Note: This shrimp paste is soft and tender for my mother-in-law to eat and son to enjoy, although I myself feels its taste and flavor can be improved. At least my family would eat it compared to when I use dried shrimp or plain whole shrimp.

I am also determined to grow angled loofah in Spring 2023 and make a documentary about it.

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