Vietnamese Sweet & Sour Shrimp Soup with Taro Stems (Canh Chua Tom Nau Bac Ha)

Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup  (Canh Chua Tom)

Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup (Canh Chua Tom)

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.

Vietnamese Sweet & Sour Shrimp Soup with Taro Stems (Canh Chua Tom Nau Bac Ha)

Serves 5-7


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 4 cloves garlic (peel; slice thin)

  • 2 lbs head-on shrimp with shell

  • 7 cups water

  • 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

  • 3 teaspoons fish sauce

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 2.5 tablespoons tamarind powder

  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 red pepper (slice thinly)

  • Handful Thai Basil leaves (slice into thin strips)


  1. In a medium-size pot, coat the bottom with vegetable oil. Heat on medium high. Add garlic and shrimp. Saute until garlic is lightly brown and shrimp just turn opaque.

  2. Add water. Be careful as mixing oil and water will splash. Turn up heat to bring the pot to a boil. Scoop out any suds that float to the top. Reduce heat to medium low.

  3. Add tomatoes and taro stems. Cook until wilted (about 5 minutes).

  4. Season soup with fish sauce, sugar, tamarind powder, chicken bouillon powder and salt.

  5. Top with Thai Basil and chili when ready to serve.

Taro stems ( Bac Ha) , cherry tomatoes and basil.

Taro stems (Bac Ha), cherry tomatoes and basil.