Sour soup, known as “canh chua” in Vietnamese cuisine, holds a special place in the country’s culinary traditions. This dish is renowned for its unique broth, crafted from a blend of fresh vegetables and spices. When prepared with grouper, a specialty fish from central Vietnam, sour soup becomes a delightful and irresistible dish.
Grouper is celebrated for its sweet and fragrant flesh, characterized by its moderate fat content and absence of excessive fishiness. Packed with nutrients beneficial for health, the fish is first cleaned and then marinated with minced chili, shallot, and other spices for approximately 15 minutes. Afterward, it is briefly fried with cooking oil and garlic until the flesh attains the desired firmness. The next step involves adding the broth to the pot and cooking over medium heat.
The broth receives a delightful mix of bite-sized pineapple, tomatoes, starfruit, and sour fermented bamboo shoots. Towards the end, the chef meticulously skims off any scum to achieve a clear and pristine broth. Additional vegetables, such as okra, dọc mùng (Colocasia gigantea), bean sprouts, and coriander, along with seasonings, are introduced into the broth. The dish is simmered until the broth reaches a boil, and then the heat is turned off.
Grouper sour soup is elegantly ladled into bowls, with a garnish of coriander to elevate its flavor. This delectable specialty is served with a small bowl of chili and garlic fish sauce, ideally complemented by a steaming bowl of rice. Diners are treated to a harmonious medley of flavors—the sweet and sour notes of the broth, the succulent grouper flesh melting in their mouths, the spicy kick of chili, and the distinct taste of sour fermented bamboo shoots—all come together to create a captivating specialty that captures the essence of central Vietnam’s coastal villages.