Simple Fish Soup with Vietnamese Coriander

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This simple fish soup with Vietnamese coriander from the Central region of Vietnam highlights the natural taste of fresh seawater fish and the distinct fragrance of rau răm. It is a light and refreshing soup to make for family dinners.

a bowl of Danang fish soup with Vietnamese coriander (canh ca rau ram).

Growing up in a seaside city in Northern Vietnam, I got to try many fish dishes including fish soups. However, we ate this fish soup with Vietnamese coriander, known as canh cá rau răm, for the first time during our vacation in Danang last year.

In Vietnam, Danang is also very famous for its seafood cuisine, not just for banh xeo or mi Quang. The staff at our favorite longstanding seafood restaurant Danang suggested this soup to us, explaining it was a great way to enjoy white-fleshed seawater fish there.

The fresh fish is cooked just enough to maintain its tender texture and delicate flavor while imparting the broth with a clean, briny essence reminiscent of the ocean.

the whole fish is being simmered in a pot of broth.

The restaurant used a whole fish called cá nâu and we used one called cá dìa in the recipe photos. Both types of fish have fairly round, slightly flat shape, and mildly sweet, lean and meaty white flesh. They aren’t too large, about 8 oz for a whole fish. I highly recommend using a seawater fish available at your local grocery stores with similar flavor and texture profile. If whole fish is not an option, you can use fish steaks.

Complementing the fish is rau răm, or Vietnamese coriander, which adds an aromatic note to the soup, just like in this Hanoi beef soup recipe. This herb has a distinctive, peppery, and slightly citrusy fragrance that neutralizes overwhelming fishy smell, giving the soup a clean and refreshing taste. You should add it toward the end of the cooking process to ensure it retains its fresh and vibrant aroma.

a pot of Danang-style fish soup with Vietnamese coriander.

The broth itself is kept simple, seasoned with just a bit of salt and pepper. I recommend using fish stock for a deeper, more umami flavor. We often make fish stock from simmering fish bones or dried anchovies. Alternatively, you can also use kombu stock as the base for the soup.

a bowl of Danang fish soup with Vietnamese coriander.

For an impressive seafood feast, you can serve this soup with these Vietnamese dishes that locals love:

Simple Fish Soup with Vietnamese Coriander

This simple fish soup with Vietnamese coriander showcases the natural flavor of fresh seawater fish and the unique aroma of rau răm. It is a light and refreshing soup to make for family dinners.
Author: Sophie
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Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients
 

  • 2 whole white-fleshed fish, 8 oz each, cleaned and gutted (or fish steaks – see Notes for more details and suggestions)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 4 small to medium shallots, peeled and divided
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or sake
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • cooking oil
  • white parts of 2 scallion stalks
  • 5 cups fish stock or kombu stock
  • 1-2 bird's eye chili, thinly sliced (remove seeds if you don't want too much spiciness)
  • cups Vietnamese coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Instructions
 

Cook the Soup

  • If using whole fish, score each side of the fish with 1-2 diagonal lashes.
  • Take 1 ginger slice and half of the shallots. Roughly pound or smack them into smaller pieces and then rub all over the fish together with the wine, salt and pepper. Set aside for 5-10 minutes.
  • Place a pot over medium heat. Once it is hot, add a bit of cooking oil. Add the remaining ginger and briefly sauté until you can smell the fragrance. Continue to add the shallots and white parts of the scallion. Sauté briefly until fragrant.
  • Pour fish stock into the pot, add chili pepper and bring it to a boil. Slice the fish into the pot and cook for about 3 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. There's no need to cover the pot and adjust the heat if needed to maintain a rapid simmer.
  • Add Vietnamese coriander to the pot and let it come back to a boil. Adjust seasonings to taste, and then transfer to serving bowls.

Serve the Soup

  • Option 1: Transfer the soup to a large serving bowl. When eating, take the fish out of the soup and place it on to clean plate so diners can use serving chopsticks (or knife and fork) to pick the flesh.
  • Option 2: Transfer the cooked fish to a plate and remove all the bones. Divide the flesh into the serving bowls and then divide the broth into each bowl.

Notes

We often use whole fish that aren’t too large with slightly flat shape, and mildly sweet, lean and meaty white flesh. I highly recommend using a seawater fish available at your local grocery stores with similar flavor and texture profile. If whole fish is not an option, you can use fish steaks that aren’t too thick or try fish fillets.
We often make fish stock from simmering fish bones or dried anchovies. Alternatively, you can also use kombu stock as the base for the soup.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 1311mg | Potassium: 646mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 428IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 115mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: canh cá rau răm, Central Vietnamese fish soup
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