Hot and sour Vietnamese soup is a classic dish savoured all over Vietnam, although it originates from the Mekong Delta region, in the south of the country.
Known locally as Canh Chua - literally translated as 'sour soup' - this hearty, nutritious broth is big on colour and flavour.
A careful balance of hot, sweet and sour flavours combine to pack a mouth-watering punch. Chillies bring the heat to the dish, whilst pineapples contribute to the sweetness. Tamarind and/or lime are the star ingredients that tease out the sour flavours in this much-loved Vietnamese food. Tomatoes, okra, bean sprouts and a generous sprinkle of spices and lemon-scented herbs are also thrown into the mix to create a dish brimming with texture and taste. Incidentally, tamarind isn't just added to create a sour tang; it also helps to keep the okra firm and prevent it turning slimy when cooked.
Interestingly, despite the staple ingredients that bring the sweet, sour and spicy flavours to the table, there are quite a few variations of this dish. In southern Vietnam, fish is almost always added, usually caught from the Mekong River Delta. Snakehead fish is a popular choice, although catfish is also often used. Other seafood such as prawns or squid are commonly added to Canh Chua, but you can also find it combined with quails eggs or spare ribs. A vegetarian version of Canh Chua is favoured in central and northern parts of the country.
Fresh ingredients are almost always used, making use of the bounty of produce endemic to the all-year-round growing season in this part of Asia.
Here at our Vietnamese bolthole in Chiswick, we serve this classic hot and sour soup with chicken, fish, prawns or tofu, making it the ideal dish for meat-eaters, vegetarians or vegans.
Rich, tangy and clean in flavour, if you're looking for Vietnamese food that feels satisfyingly healthy and tasty, this hot and sour soup is a rewarding choice, whether you choose to dine in with us or get it as a takeaway. Served in warm bowls, it makes the perfect stand-alone soup, starter or accompaniment to other Asian meals. It's also sometimes served with rice or noodles.