Hot and Sour Catfish Soup - Canh Chua Ca

Vietnamese Hot and Sour Fish Soup (Canh Chua Ca) is a favorite of mine especially during cold winter months. It is definitely on the list of comfort foods. The soup traditionally uses catfish and as with many Vietnamese dishes, has the perfect blend of sweet, sour and spicy. You can substitute with any fish to your liking. For those who do not prefer fish, shrimp is often used as well.


  • 1 small catfish cut into 1 inch steaks or 1 lb of catfish filets
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, bruised and cut down into 3 inch lengths
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup of pineapple chunks
  • 8-12 okra, sliced into ½ inch segments
  • 2 stalks of taro stem (bac ha), peeled and sliced on a bias into 1 inch thick pieces
  • Big handful of bean sprouts
  • 3-4 sprigs of rice paddy herb (ngo om), chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Thai chili, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar, adjust if necessary
  • fish sauce to taste
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
  • Fried shallots


  1. Heat up a tablespoon of cooking oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass, shallot, garlic, Thai chili and tamarind paste and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the catfish and brown for a couple of minutes. Remove the catfish and set aside. The catfish does not need to be fully cooked through at this point.
  2. Pour in the water over the sautéed ingredients. Add tomatoes and pineapple and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the catfish back in as well as the okra. Season with fish sauce and sugar to taste and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. Skim off the foam as it develops.
  4. Once the catfish is fully cooked, add in the taro stem and bean sprouts and turn off the heat. The residual heat will be enough to cook them.
  5. Top with rice paddy herb and a sprinkle of fried shallots and serve immediately.

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