Vietnamese Sweet & Sour Shrimp Soup with Taro Stems (Canh Chua Tom Nau Bac Ha)
It's November and I'm still getting fresh vegetables from the garden. Usually by this time of year, I am clearing out the garden, packing up the tools and waiting for next Spring to start again. However, this year, I still have a few tenders leaves of basil, a handful of ripe cherry tomatoes and a couple of taro stems. The harvest is not plentiful as in late Spring, but it is enough for a small pot of Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup or Canh Chua Tom. With the weather suddenly turning chilly, nothing feels better than warm soup in the belly.
Vietnamese Soup Shrimp soup is a traditional side dish in Vietnamese home-cooking. It's a classic soup component for many Vietnamese family-style meals. It's sweet, spicy, and sour. When I make this soup, I like to use head-on shrimp with shell. The heads and shells have a lot of flavors that add to the soup. Of course, if that doesn't suit your fancy, you can certainly use headless and peeled shrimp.
In the below recipe, I kept my soup simple with what I had in the garden: taro stems, basil and tomatoes. If I had okra, bean sprouts and pineapples, I would have thrown them in too, but sadly I had none on hand.
2 lbs head-on shrimp with shell
7 cups water
3 teaspoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2.5 tablespoons tamarind powder
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium size Taro stem also known as Elephant Ear stems (remove outer skin and slice thinly)
20 cherry tomatoes or two large tomato cut into quarters
4 cloves of garlic (slice thin)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
1/2 Thai pepper (slice thinly)
2 tablespoons of fresh Thai Basil (slice into strips)
In a small pot, coat the bottom with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat on medium high.
Add garlic and saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
Add shrimp and saute to bring out the flavors (about 1 minute)
Add water. Be careful as mixing oil and water will splash. Turn up heat to bring the pot to a boil.
Scoop out the suds that float to the top. Turn the heat to medium low.
Add the fish sauce, sugar, tamarind powder, chicken bouillon and salt. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and taro stems. Cook until wilted (about 5 minutes).
Add fried garlic, Thai Basil, and chili on top of the soup when you are ready to serve.