Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup (Canh Chua Tôm)

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Vietnamese sour shrimp soup (canh chua tôm) is a refreshing and flavorful soup of the Southern region of Vietnam. This dish is an excellent addition to family dinners with its balanced sweet and sour taste. My version emphasizes the natural sweetness of shrimp and minimizes the use of added sugar.

a bowl of Vietnamese sour shrimp soup (Canh chua tôm) with rice and fish sauce on the side.

Canh chua tôm features succulent shrimp, pineapple, tomatoes and veggies in a sweet and sour tamarind-based broth. The Southern region of Vietnam is hot all year round, and this refreshing and tangy soup helps to stimulate the appetite and complement the rice well.

Make A Good Shrimp Stock

The taste of sour soups varies quite significantly between the North and South of Vietnam. As someone from the North, I often find Southern restaurants are a bit too heavy-handed with the amount of sugar, to the point that I sometimes feel like maybe they should call the dish sweet shrimp soup instead. So, for my version, I minimize the amount of sugar added by making a good homemade shrimp stock.

I have a more detailed post on how to make shrimp stock here. Made from simmering shrimp heads and shells, the stock adds depth, complexity and natural sweetness to the soup.

Simmer shrimp heads and shells in a stock pot to make shrimp stock.

The sourness of this shrimp soup primarily comes from tamarind paste. The addition of pineapple and tomatoes adds a natural sweetness and slight tanginess, and it also enhances the overall flavor profile. It’s not uncommon to see pineapples in Vietnamese savory dishes, as you may have seen in this stir-fried squid recipe.

You can find tamarind paste or concentrate packed in a jar at grocery stores or Amazon. The taste and consistency may differ among brands so you may need to adjust the amount to your liking. Just make sure you buy either Thai or Vietnamese paste, and not the Indian one. In Vietnam, we can buy tamarind pulp to make our own paste.

Related: do you know tamarind concentrate can be used to make drinks? My iced tamarind juice (đá me) may become your summer favorite beverage.

Vegetables and Herbs

plates and bowls containing ingredients for sour shrimp soup.
Pineapples, tomatoes, beansprouts, chopped herbs and tamarind paste

With an abundance of fresh produce, Southern Vietnamese people love to add a lot of veggies to their sour soups. The common additions include okra, bean sprouts, and taro stems. You can add all of them or just pick one type that you like. For me, I’m happy with adding just bean sprouts.

This Vietnamese sour shrimp soup also includes a lot of herbs which add a refreshing aroma and a cooling sensation. Chopped scallions, saw-tooth leaves (ngò gai) and rice paddy herbs (ngò om or rau ngổ) are traditional choices. You may also use cilantro and Vietnamese coriander, depending on what you can find at your local Asian grocery stores.

a bowl of Vietnamese sweet and sour shrimp soup, with rice and fish sauce on the side.

Make It A Meal

You can serve canh chua tom with steamed rice and the following main dishes:

Instead of rice, you may also eat it with rice vermicelli noodles for a quick and light dinner.

a bowl of Vietnamese sour shrimp soup.

Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup (Canh chua tôm)

Vietnamese sour shrimp soup (canh chua tôm) is an excellent addition to family dinners with its balanced sweet and sour taste. My recipe highlights the natural sweetness of the shrimp and the depth and complexity of the broth.
Author: Sophie
5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients
 

  • 20-24 oz raw shrimp with heads and shells on (about 16 medium to large shrimp)
  • cooking oil
  • cups water
  • teaspoons salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons tamarind paste (to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (to taste)
  • 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce (to taste)
  • 8 oz fresh pineapples cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1½ cups)
  • 8 oz ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 8 oz bean sprouts
  • chopped scallions
  • chopped saw-tooth leaves and rice paddy herbs (see Notes for substitution)

Instructions
 

  • Peel the shrimp and keep the shells and heads to make the stock. Use a knife to make a shallow slit along the back of the shrimp to devein (you can do this while simmering the stock in Step 2). The shrimp will also look prettier once cooked.
  • Place a pot over medium heat and once it is hot, add cooking oil to thinly coat the bottom. Add the shrimp shells and heads. Increase the heat and sauté until they are browned and smell flavorful, then add the water and salt. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
    Simmer shrimp heads and shells in a stock pot to make shrimp stock.
  • Cover the pot and simmer for 45-60 minutes. After that, remove all the shrimp heads and shells. Flavor the broth with tamarind paste, sugar and fish sauce to taste.
    removing shrimp heads and shells from the stock.
  • Add the pineapple pieces and simmer for 4-5 minutes to release their flavors and aroma.
    adding pineapple pieces to the shrimp soup pot.
  • Add the tomato wedges and let the soup come back to a rapid simmer. Increase the heat if needed. Then add the peeled shrimp and cook for 1-1½ minutes until they are just cooked through. Avoid overcooking which will make them rubbery.
    shrimp being cooked in the sour soup pot.
  • Add the bean sprouts and let the soup boil rapidly. Then stir in the chopped herbs. Turn off the heat and transfer the soup to serving bowls right away.

Notes

Substitutions: You may also use cilantro and Vietnamese coriander, depending on what you can find at your local Asian grocery stores. Some people also like adding okra sliced on a bias to the soup together with the bean sprouts.
If you like spiciness, you can add several slices of bird’s eye chili to the soup.
Make sure to buy either Thai or Vietnamese tamarind paste, and not the Indian one.
If you need help with slicing the pineapples, check out the photos in this stir-fried squid recipe for a visual guide.
This soup is usually served with rice, but it will also taste good with rice vermicelli noodles. Place a bowl of fish sauce with several slices of bird’s eye chili on the side.

Nutrition

Calories: 193kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 179mg | Sodium: 1675mg | Potassium: 521mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 776IU | Vitamin C: 43mg | Calcium: 118mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine: Vietnamese
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⭐️ I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment and a rating if you have tried it. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on FacebookYoutubePinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.

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