When it comes to canh chua (literally means “sour soup”) most people are familiar with canh chua cá (sour fish soup). There are many different variations to canh chua. Some are cooked with bamboo, eel, chicken, pork ribs or prawns. Undoubtedly the original cooked with fish, tamarind, pineapples, elephant ears, tomatoes and okra is the still the best.
Another version of canh chua my mum usually makes is with prawns and water spinach. My husband much prefers this one because he finds the fish one too fishy. Tamarind is use to give the sour taste in canh chua. I would much prefer to use fresh tamarind for this soup but since I can’t get fresh tamarind I used a tamarind sour soup powder (which has a lot of other seasoning in it).
I really like water spinach (rau muống). Every time I see water spinach I think of sauteed water spinach with just garlic; simple and tasty. In winter water spinach is sold for more than $20 kg. Water spinach is now in season so eat up!
Garnishing canh chua with rice paddy herb (ngò om) and saw tooth coriander (ngò gai) really enhances this dish (don’t you just love the names of these herbs). This herb is called saw tooth herb. It has a very strong taste and smell which is hard to describe. My parents have an abundance of this herb growing in their backyard.
Canh Chua Rau Muống Tôm
2 bunches of water spinach
2.5 litres of water
2 tomatoes, sliced in wedges
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g bean sprout
150 okra, cut in half, diagonally
a bunch of saw tooth coriander (ngò gai)
a bunch of rice paddy herb (ngò om)
3/4 packet of tamarind sour soup powder
1 tablespoon oil
1. Individually break the stem of the water spinach into about 10cm long sections (using your hands). Any part that is hard that doesn’t break easily discard (as they are old) and throw any leaves that are bad. Soak and then wash the water spinach.
2. Add oil to a frying pan. Add garlic and fry until fragrant. Add the prawns and sauteed until half cooked and remove from heat.
3. Add boiling water to a large pot. Add the sauteed prawns and garlic into the pot and bring to the boil. Add the tamarind powder, fish sauce, sugar and salt. Stir well and skimming any impurities. Taste and add more of the tamarind powder if want more sour. Bring to the boil.
4. Add water spinach, okra, tomatoes and bean sprout to pot and return to boil. Remove from heat and garnish with chilli, rice paddy herb and saw tooth herb.