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Vietnamese Sour Soup Recipe: Canh Chua – Sweet, Hot & Authentic

When it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, there are a few dishes that stand out as the epitome of flavor, balance, and authenticity. One such dish is the Vietnamese sour soup recipe, known as Canh Chua. This iconic soup is a beautiful blend of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors, making it a popular choice for those looking to explore the rich and diverse world of Vietnamese cooking. In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through the origins of Canh Chua, its key ingredients, and the process of making it at home. So, let’s dive into the world of Canh Chua – sweet, hot, and authentic!

The Origins of Canh Chua

Canh Chua hails from the Mekong Delta region in Southern Vietnam. This area is known for its fertile soil and abundant waterways, which provide a wealth of fresh ingredients for the local cuisine. The soup itself is a reflection of the diverse and flavorful ingredients found in this region, with a particular emphasis on the balance of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. Canh Chua is a staple in many Vietnamese households and is often enjoyed as a main course alongside a bowl of rice or rice noodles.

A bowl of Vietnamese sour soup with fresh ingredients

Key Ingredients in Vietnamese Sour Soup Recipe

At its core, Canh Chua is a simple soup made from a handful of key ingredients. These ingredients include:

  • Tamarind paste or tamarind concentrate
  • Fresh pineapple
  • Thai basil
  • Fish sauce
  • Bean sprouts
  • Rice paddy herb (also known as Vietnamese coriander or Rau Răm)
  • Elephant ear stems (also known as taro stems or Bạc Hà)
  • Chili peppers
  • Green onions

These ingredients work together to create a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors that are characteristic of Vietnamese cuisine. The tamarind paste and pineapple provide the sour flavor, while the fish sauce and Thai basil add a salty and slightly sweet touch. The chili peppers, of course, bring the heat!

Fresh ingredients for Vietnamese sour soup on a cutting board

Finding the Right Ingredients

While some of the ingredients in a Vietnamese sour soup recipe may be readily available at your local grocery store, others may require a bit of searching. Ingredients like tamarind paste, Thai basil, and rice paddy herb can often be found at Asian markets or specialty stores. Elephant ear stems, on the other hand, may be more difficult to find, but can be substituted with celery stalks if necessary.

Preparing the Soup

Once you have all of your ingredients, it’s time to start cooking! Begin by preparing your tamarind base. This can be done by mixing tamarind paste or concentrate with hot water to create a thin, tart liquid. If you’re using fresh tamarind, you’ll need to soak it in warm water and then strain the mixture to remove any seeds or fibers.

Next, heat a large pot over medium heat and add a small amount of oil. Add your garlic cloves and green onions, cooking until fragrant. Then, pour in your tamarind base and bring the mixture to a boil. Add your pineapple chunks and fish sauce, along with any additional seasonings like black pepper or soy sauce.

Preparing the tamarind base for Vietnamese sour soup

Adding the Protein

Traditionally, Canh Chua is made with either catfish steaks or shrimp, but you can also use chicken or tofu for a vegetarian option. Add your chosen protein to the boiling soup and cook until fully cooked through. Once your protein is cooked, it’s time to add your fresh herbs and vegetables. Add your Thai basil, rice paddy herb, and elephant ear stems, along with your chili peppers for heat. Finally, add your bean sprouts and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes before removing from heat.

Serving and Enjoying Your Canh Chua

Canh Chua is best enjoyed hot, with a side of white rice or rice noodles. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with additional fresh herbs like cilantro or sawtooth coriander. For an extra kick of flavor, you can also add a splash of lime juice or fish sauce to taste.

A steaming bowl of Canh Chua with a side of white rice

Exploring More Vietnamese Dishes

Canh Chua is just one example of the many delicious and diverse dishes that make up Vietnamese cuisine. If you’re interested in exploring more Vietnamese recipes and flavors, be sure to check out some of our other blog posts, like our Lau Thai Recipe: Hot Yum Tom Pot Soup with Vietnamese Flavors and Thai Basil Pork Recipe. Happy cooking!

Vietnamese Sour Soup (Canh Chua) Recipe

Vietnamese Sour Soup (Canh Chua) Recipe

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Canh Chua, popularly known as Vietnamese Sour Soup, is a perfect blend of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors, making it a delightful treat for your taste buds. This soup is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine, often enjoyed with a bowl of steamed rice or rice vermicelli.


  • 1.5 lbs fish fillets or shrimp
  • 3 cups fresh pineapple
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes
  • 2 cups okra
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup fresh Thai basil
  • 1/2 cup tamarind paste or concentrate
  • 4 cups water or fish stock
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 red or green chili peppers (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Prepare the protein: If using fish, cut the fillets into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. If using shrimp, peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on for presentation.
  2. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the water or fish stock to the pot, followed by the tamarind paste or concentrate. Stir well to combine and dissolve the tamarind paste. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, add the pineapple, tomatoes, and okra to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the soup simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Add the fish or shrimp to the soup, and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the protein is cooked through. If using fish, it should be easily flaked with a fork. If using shrimp, they should be pink and opaque.
  6. Season the soup with fish sauce, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasonings according to your preferences. If you prefer a spicier soup, add the chili peppers at this stage.
  7. Once the soup is seasoned to your liking, add the bean sprouts, cilantro, and Thai basil. Stir to combine and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until the bean sprouts are slightly wilted.
  8. Serve your Canh Chua hot, alongside steamed rice or rice vermicelli. Garnish each bowl with extra cilantro and Thai basil, and enjoy your delicious Vietnamese Sour Soup!


The choice of fish or shrimp will affect the flavor and texture of the soup, but both options are delicious. To make the soup vegetarian, you can replace the protein with tofu and use vegetable stock instead of fish stock.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 280Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 720mgCarbohydrates: 32gNet Carbohydrates: 28gFiber: 4gSugar: 14gSugar Alcohols: 0gProtein: 23g

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