Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sour Soup)

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My husband LOVES canh chua!  I dare say it’s his favorite food.  I happen to like it a lot myself, so I want to share my recipe with you.  I’ll admit that Western taste buds are not really used to the sour flavor found in this soup, but I highly encourage you to be adventurous and give it a try, because it is so good (and packed full of healthy fruits/veggies)!  Not to mention this is an authentic Vietnamese recipe (except for the fact that my recipe leaves out the usual fish or shrimp and replaces it with red lentils).

Canh Chua 3


1 cup red lentils

2-3 stalks bac ha (I believe this is called taro stems in English; if you can’t find this, you can just use regular celery.)

15 okra, sliced into 1 inch pieces

2 tomatoes, chopped

2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped

2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and cut into 3 inch pieces

1 cup bean sprouts

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

several leaves of rau ram (Vietnamese coriander; if you can’t find this, you can use Thai basil.)

2 Tbsp fresh tamarind OR several spoonfuls of canh chua soup mix

nuoc mam chay (vegetarian “fish” sauce), to taste

You can buy bac ha, rau ram, nuoc mam chay, tamarind and/or canh chua soup mix, and lemongrass at most Asian markets.

Bac Ha

Bac Ha (taro stems)

Rau Ram

Rau Ram (Vietnamese coriander)

Canh Chua 1 Canh Chua 2

Canh Chua Soup Mix (This is mine that I use.)


Heat up about 1 Tbsp of oil in a 5 quart pot.  Saute shallots, garlic, and lemongrass until fragrant (if using fresh tamarind, add that now, too).  Add in 3 Tbsp of canh chua soup mix and stir for about a minute.

Add 1 cup red lentils, 4 cups of vegetable broth, and 5 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, and then turn heat down to medium low so it can simmer for 10 minutes.

At this point, you can either use a slated spoon to scoop out all of the lemongrass pieces, or you can leave them for the added flavor and remove them from individual serving bowls as they are not eaten in this soup.

I like to add 2 Tbsp of canh chua base at this point along with the bac ha, okra, tomatoes, and pineapple.  Add in nuoc mam chay to taste.  Stir and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes.

At the end of the 10 minutes, the lentils should be cooked and the vegetables softened.  You may like the soup as is, in which case, you can now add in the bean sprouts and rau ram and it’s ready to serve.  However, if you are like us and enjoy strong flavors, we normally add in 1-3 Tbsp more of canh chua soup mix before adding in the bean sprouts and rau ram.

Typically, this soup is served with a separate bowl of rice to go with it, and Vietnamese people often spoon some of the soup over their rice.

Canh Chua 4

Once you stir everything in, it should look like this.

One more thing.  I know it’s kind of late, but Happy Memorial Day from our family to yours.  Since we do not personally know any fallen soldiers and neither of us have close relatives buried nearby, we walked through a local cemetery praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and asking God to bring peace to those families who have lost loved ones this year.  What did you do for Memorial Day?


Author: Amber Vo

Traditionalist Catholic, wife, foodie, animal lover, barren. My blog:

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