Blog

Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese Opo Squash & Shrimp Soup (Canh Bau Tom)

It's starting to feel like Summer! The weather is finally warming up. The birds are chirping. The neighbors are walking around half-naked. More importantly, the garden is blooming. The other day, I harvested my first Opo Squash (Bầu). I'm so proud of it because it's the first ever Opo Squash that didn't die as soon as it got started. Opo Squash, also known as Calabash Gourd or White Gourd, grows on vines and can grow up to the size of a baseball bat if you let it. Not only can you use it as a lethal weapon, Opo Squash can be used in a traditional Vietnamese side dish, Opo Squash and Shrimp Soup (Canh Bau Tom).

 Canh Bầu Tôm (Vietnamese Opo Squash & Shrimp Soup)

Canh Bầu Tôm (Vietnamese Opo Squash & Shrimp Soup)

Opo Squash is very versatile. You can fry them with eggs, stew them in a curry, or cook them in a soup. The most common use for Opo Squash in my house is Opo Squash and Shrimp Soup (Canh Bầu Tôm). I grew up eating Canh Bau Tom almost every other day because Dad, who did most of the cooking, wasn't much of a cook and Opo Squash Soup was one of the easiest dishes to cook. 

 Vietnamese Opo & Shrimp Soup Ingredients: Opo squash, garlic, dried shrimp and green onions

Vietnamese Opo & Shrimp Soup Ingredients: Opo squash, garlic, dried shrimp and green onions

Opo Squash is commonly confused for Winter Melon (Bí Đao), another gourd that is physically similar. If you look closely, you can tell the difference between the two. Opo Squash has a smooth, light green skin. Whereas, Winter Melon has somewhat of a fuzzy, dark green skin. Winter Melon also commonly has noticeable white and green specks. Both are used similarly so if you can't find Opo Squash, feel free to use Winter Melon. And if you can't find Winter Melon, substitute with Chayote (Su Su). Opo Squash, Winter Melon and Chayote can be used interchangeably in Vietnamese dishes.

In the below recipe, I used dried salted small shrimp. You can find those in many Asian grocery stores. In my Asian grocery store, they are in the freezer section. Other times, they are on the shelf with the other dried goods. If you can't the salted small shrimp, you can substitute with small fresh shrimp.

 Canh Bầu Tôm (Vietnamese Opo Squash & Shrimp Soup)

Canh Bầu Tôm (Vietnamese Opo Squash & Shrimp Soup)

Vietnamese Opo & Shrimp Soup Recipe

Serves3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 Opo Squash (around 1 lb, peel, remove seeds if harden, and cut into thick matchsticks)
  • 1/2 small salted dried shrimp (soak in warm water for at least 10 minutes, rinse then drain dry))
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (mince)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chicken, mushroom or pork stock powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon MSG (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 green onion (slice thinly)
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. In a medium-size pot, heat up vegetable oil. Add shrimp and garlic. Pan-fry until fragrant (about 3 minutes).
  2. Add water and bring the pot to a boil.
  3. Once water starts boiling, add opo squash and cook until the squash turns translucent.
  4. Season pot with salt, sugar, seasoning stock powder, MSG (optional) and fish sauce.
  5. Garnish with green onions and black pepper before serving.
 Getting started: sauteing dried shrimp with garlic and onions

Getting started: sauteing dried shrimp with garlic and onions

 Canh Bầu Tôm (Vietnamese Opo Squash & Shrimp Soup)

Canh Bầu Tôm (Vietnamese Opo Squash & Shrimp Soup)

Oven-Baked Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings

When I think of Sriracha hot sauce, I typically think of Pho Bo or Pho Ga, the famous Vietnamese Noodle Soups that I add Sriracha to. Now, Sriracha is everywhere, appearing in the dishes themselves. They are not just a condiment alongside a dish anymore. Asians have been eating Sriracha forever, but now it's finally getting the attention it so highly deserves. It even has its own cult following! How cool and creepy is that?!

 Oven-Baked Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings

Oven-Baked Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings

What is this magical sauce? Srirarcha is an Asian hot sauce made up of chili, garlic, vinegar, salt and sugar. Aside from Pho, Sriracha is an absolute must in my dipping sauce in Vietnamese Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls and Jicama and Carrot Spring Rolls. Recently I had them as a marinade on baked chicken (jumping on the Sriracha bandwagon here) and to my pleasant surprise, the fusion was incredibly tasty and the aroma was amazing! It lured the family downstairs to the kitchen to see what was cooking ... in a good way this time!

 Oven-Baked Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings

Oven-Baked Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings

For my Sriracha Honey chicken recipe below, I like to use wings or drumettes. The bite-sized portions of poultry goodness is great for entertaining. For this Vietnamese-American fusion appetizer, I base it on a more traditional Vietnamese recipe. I use a traditional Vietnamese Five-Spice marinade as the base. Then I brush the wings with the Honey Sriracha mixture towards the end of cooking to highlight the sexy sauce. The result was packed full of flavor, and I truly love that sticky sweet and spicy glaze. Recipe below. Happy eating!

 Oven-Baked Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings

Oven-Baked Sriracha Honey Chicken Wings

Oven-Baked Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings

Printer-Friendly Recipe

Serves 5-7

Ingredients

Five-Spice Chicken Marinade:
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon MSG (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemon grass
  • 7 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • 40 small chicken wings
  • 1/3 cup Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients in the Five-Spice Marinade. Add chicken and toss to evenly coat. Marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Spread the chicken in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Then flip and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, mix Sriracha and honey until combined. Brush wings with Sriracha and Honey mixture, switch oven to broil. Bake until golden brown. Flip and repeat.
Oven-Baked Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings