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Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese Sour Catfish Soup (Canh Chua)

Vietnamese Sour Catfish Soup or Canh Chua is a hearty Vietnamese soup. It's embodies the essence of Vietnamese cooking: the delicate combination of sweet, sour and savory. There are many variations of Vietnamese Sour Catfish Soup and all are equally delicious. Some variations are in the vegetables. Some use Taro Stems as the main greens. Some use Okra and some use celery. Some also add pineapples for extra sweetness. Other variations are in the protein. Some use shrimp or catfish. Some opt for a vegetarian option by using tofu. In the recipe below, I stuck to the more traditional version of Taro Stems and catfish. This dish is eaten, like many other Vietnamese dishes, family style alongside white rice and other small Vietnamese side dishes. 

Canh Chua. Serve with rice and another savory dish and you got yourself a typical Vietnamese meal.

Canh Chua. Serve with rice and another savory dish and you got yourself a typical Vietnamese meal.

Vietnamese Sour Catfish Soup (Canh Chua) Recipe

  • 1/2 lb catfish  (thoroughly cleaned, scrubbed and sliced into steaks)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 8 cups water
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind powder
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium size Taro stem also known as Elephant Ear; Remove the outer skin and slice thinly at a diagonal
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 4 large tomatoes; quartered
  • 1/2 Thai pepper if you like a little kick – Slice thinly.  
  • 2 cloves of garlic – slice thin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh Thai Basil – roll it up and slice into thin strips
Ingredients for Canh Chua: Basil, Taro Stems, Bean Sprouts and Tomatoes

Ingredients for Canh Chua: Basil, Taro Stems, Bean Sprouts and Tomatoes

  1. Marinade catfish with fish sauce. Let it sit refrigerated overnight for best results or at least 30 minutes.
  2. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Add catfish, along with its juices. Cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Using a mesh or small spoon, scoop out the suds that float to the top.
  5. Add the sugar, tamarind, chicken bouillon and salt.
  6. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the taro stems and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Add the bean sprouts. Immediately turn off heat.
  9. In a small skillet, heat up the vegetable oil and fry the garlic until golden brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic. 
  10. Drain the fried garlic on a plate lined with paper towels.
  11. Add fried garlic, chili, and Thai Basil on top of the soup when you are ready to serve.