The best hot & sour shrimp soup recipe you will ever need in your recipe box. Learn to make this classic Vietnamese soup in a few easy steps.
If there is one thing that could easily represent Vietnamese food culture (besides Pho and Bun Bo Hue), it's this Hot & sour shrimp soup (Canh chua tom).
Read more: How to make chicken Pho at home.
Years ago, it was quite hard to find all of the required ingredients to make this authentic soup. However, it is much easier to find those ingredients due the popularity of Asian cuisine worldwide now.
This classic Vietnamese soup is often paired with catfish clay pot besides a bowl of hot steamed rice. That being said, you normally find both of these dishes served together in any Viet family meal.
Read more: How to make caramelized catfish clay pot the right way.
For soup base:
- Catfish bones - to make the broth. If catfish bones are not available to you, store bought seafood/fish stock will do the job.
- Tamarind soup base - I use Knorr tamarind mix and it works perfectly
- Fish sauce - Red Boat brand has always been my number one choice
- Sugar - I use white granulated sugar or even better palm sugar
For hot & sour shrimp soup main ingredients:
- Shrimps or prawns - washed, peeled, and deveined
- Okra - keep them whole or halved. The broth might get slimy if you cut okra into multiple small pieces
- Elephant ear plant stems - or taro stems/ bac ha. Peeled and cut into pieces
- Bean sprouts - you can easily grow bean sprouts at home with these tips
- Whole tomatoes - cut into pieces
- Pineapples - cut into bite size pieces
- White cabbage - this ingredient is totally optional.
- Rice paddy herb - chopped
- Thai red chilies - keep them whole or slice into small pieces
- Fried garlic - don't skip this ingredient. The fried garlic adds such a good aroma for the soup.
Tips to make the best hot & sour shrimp soup
The main taste of this soup should lean toward the sourness followed by the sweetness. Fish sauce & salt are here to help balance the taste not to over power the other two.
So in order to make the best soup, you should never use more than the recommended amount of fish sauce. If you need to adjust the saltiness, always use extra plain salt. Because too much fish sauce can compromise the main tamarind taste.
Remember a little seasoning goes a long way, adjust with a few pinch salt or sugar at a time. Wait for them to dissolve completely, taste, then add more if necessary.
Blanch and plunge vegetables into an ice bath then set aside. Blanching helps preserve their freshness, original color, and nutrition. When you're ready to eat, heat the soup broth on the stove then add blanched veggies after. This way you get control over the vegetables more.
It's easy to overcook those greens which are already very delicate to begin with. You can still cook the vegetables directly in the pot, just make sure to keep an eye on them because they're cooked pretty quickly. It normally only takes 2 minutes to fully cook them.
It is best to make the soup broth separately so you can keep it for 2-3 days under refrigeration or 2 weeks in the freezer.
If you add protein & vegetables in the soup then it is best to serve within 1 day.
Did you make this recipe? If so please leave a rating and let me know how it went in the comment section. Also, don't forget to tag me #cookmorphosis @cookmorphosis on social media.
Hot & Sour Shrimp Soup (Canh Chua Tom)
- ½ lb catfish bones
- 4 tbsp tamarind soup base
- 2 oz fish sauce
- 2 oz sugar granulated white sugar or palm sugar
- 1 lb shrimp or prawn peeled, deveined
- 2 stems elephant ear plant peeled, cut into diagonal pieces
- ½ lb okra keep whole or halved
- 5 oz beansprout
- ½ lb tomato quartered
- ½ pineapples cut into bite size cubes
- white cabbage optional, cut into bite size
- 1 oz rice paddy herb finely chopped, for garnish
- 2 Thai chilies whole or cut in half
- 1 tbsp fried garlic
- salt & sugar as needed
Make soup base
- In a large pot, combine 2 qt of water with catfish bones, bring to boil then simmer for 30 minutes.½ lb catfish bones
- Discard the bones, strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieves. Pour about 1 cup of the soup to a small mixing bowl, then add tamarind soup base in. Stir to dissolve it completely, about 2-3 minutes.4 tbsp tamarind soup base
- Return the rest of the strained soup & tamarind mixture to the cooking pot. Bring to boil. Then lower the heat and add fish sauce and sugar, stir until sugar completely dissolved. Adjust the taste accordingly by using salt and sugar.2 oz fish sauce, 2 oz sugar, salt & sugar
- At this point the soup base can be kept under refrigeration for 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
- Let the soup pot simmer on medium high heat, add the shrimp, pineapples, tomatoes, and cook for 2 minutes or until the shrimps just turn pink.1 lb shrimp or prawn, ½ lb tomato, ½ pineapples
- Set up another small pot filled with water bring to boil on the stove and an ice bath.
- Add vegetables and cook for 2 minutes max. Then quickly remove them using slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice bath to prevent carry over cooking.2 stems elephant ear plant, ½ lb okra, 5 oz beansprout, white cabbage
- After 2 minutes, take the vegetables out, set aside at room temperature for later use.
Assemble & serve
- When you're ready to eat, bring the pot back to boiling point, then add blanched vegetables into the soup. Quickly adjust the taste (if necessary). You can also add the Thai red chilies at this point. Turn off the heat immediately. The whole process should not exceed 1 minute.2 Thai chilies
- Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl, garnish with rice paddy herb and fried garlic. Serve immediately.1 oz rice paddy herb, 1 tbsp fried garlic
If you add protein and vegetables inside the soup then it is best to serve within 1 day.
Disclaimer: the original post was published on April 11, 2015.
what is tamarind soup base? Can I sub with tamarind paste, concentrate, or pulp? tyia 🙂
I had a link up there (in the Ingredients section of the post) that showed the tamarind soup base i used in this recipe. Technically it's like chicken bouillon but using tamarind as a main ingredient instead.
You definitely can use tamarind paste, concentrate or pulp. Just keep in mind, except for tamarind concentrate, the other two need to be diluted with hot/warm water first before adding to the soup pot. As for the pulp, you can either use them or throw them away and just use the juice after diluted. It's up to you.
Let me know how it goes and if you need help, feel free to pop back in and comment :).
I have used your recipe before and it was awesome just like the vietnamese restaurant experience! So thank you. I'm making it again today as I found all the veggies together at my local Asian market in Sacramento,Ca.
Thank you so much for trying out the recipe and making it again. I'm so thrilled that it worked out perfectly for you. And yeah, we can't never get enough of this soup in our house. We have to at least eat it once a month.
Substitutes for rice paddy herb and fish bones, since most are not too easily available? Thanks!
The best substitution for rice paddy herb is culantro (not cilantro). If it's also too hard to find, dill is another popular option you can go for. Just keep in mind dill goes better with fish than shrimp so you might want to switch out the shrimp. However, it's totally fine to consume the soup without either of the herbs above :).
As for fish bones, you can substitute them with real fish nugget or fish steak (recommend fish with a little fat like cat fish or salmon). Just cook the fish first, then adding the rest as written in the recipe.
Hope this helps. Let me know how it turns out or you still need any info :).
to be honest I feel like canh chua without rice paddy herb wouldn't be canh chua. It has a distinct smell and taste. The aroma is nice
I feel the same way too. But rice paddy herb is not always available in some parts of the world so we just have to find the best substitution for it then 🙂