Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Canh Chua Chay

Before we get started here, I would just like to pause and say that this is what this soup tastes like to me:

Yes, that's right. MOUTH UNICORNS.*

I've had it twice now at a local Vietnamese place and, for fear of quitting my job and taking up residence there, decided I'd better learn to make it at home. I perused 3 or 4 different recipes to come up with this one, taking what I liked from each plus some thoughts of my own. (Like asparagus, which is tasty and was present in my fridge this evening.)

OK, then. Your ingredients:

Group One:
2 thinly sliced yellow shallots/small yellow onions
1 TB butter

Group Two:
2 tsp salt
2 TB date palm sugar
4 TB vegetarian fish sauce
12 c water
3/4 c tamarind concentrate
2 TB Vietnamese Sour Soup Mix**
juice of 1 lime

Group Three:
1/2 to 1 bunch asparagus, bottoms snapped off, stalks cut into thirds, on the bias ifyouplease
An equivalent quantity of okra, stemmed and cut into 1-in pieces
An again-equivalent amount of baby bok choy leaves
1 stalk sliced taro stems
Halved cherry tomatoes
Very firm tofu squares
1 12-oz can pineapple + a splash of the juice
Bean sprouts

(OK, pause again: Chopping taro stems is about the most fun I have EVER had that did not involve bubble wrap. I think I will chop my leftover stalk tomorrow just for recreation.)

So, start with Group One: Soften the onion in the butter in the bottom of your pot.

Then add Group Two, taste, adjust, etc, till, you know.... (see photo above). Bring to a boil.

Then add Group Three, starting at the top with the crunchiest ingredients and moving down as they cook, to throw in the bean sprouts just before taking off the heat. Don't let anything get too soft; just cooked through.

That's it. MAN IT IS SO GOOD I burned my mouth tasting it.

*Siblings, please don't kill me for cluttering up our blog. Come on... MOUTH UNICORNS! I'm hilarious. www.cornify.com.

**Yes, I picked up this helpful cheat at Saigon Market. If you can't run off on a whim to markets that import amazing s*** you can't even pronounce and sell it to you for cheap, make up for it by increasing the existing flavors to taste and adding some chili paste.


  1. you've hit all the right flavors in this soup!

  2. Mysterious Ravenous Couple, I like you guys already. ;)