Tuesday , July 16 2024

How to make southern Vietnamese sour fish soup

Sour fish soup, voted among the world’s best rated fish soups by international food magazine TasteAtlas, features a sweet and sour blend, making it a great choice for a summer meal.

This recipe serves about 4 to 5 people, takes approximately 30 minutes to prepare.

Sour fish soup has been recognized among the top 10 best rated fish soups in the world by international food magazine TasteAtlas. The soup preparation varies across regions. The southern style is diverse and generous with ingredients, while Hanoi sour soup is elegant and simpler.

The secret to non-fishy sour soup is thorough fish preparation and boiling the soup before adding the fish. Different regions may lightly fry or directly add fish to boiling water to preserve its original sweetness.


– 400 grams of snakehead fish (or catfish, carp, salmon)

– 200 grams of tomatoes

– 100 grams of elephant ear stalks

– 100 grams of okra

– 100 grams of bean sprouts

– 1-2 tamarind, or you can use dried tamarind pulp or tamarind soup base powder.

– 1/2 pineapple

– Garlic, chili, shallots

– Spices: Fish sauce, salt, sugar, stock powder

– Herbs: rau ngo – enydra fluctuans lour, ngo gai – cilantro

– Cooking oil

1. Preparation

a. Clean and prepare the fish

– Start by cleaning the fish thoroughly. Rub the fish with a mixture of lemon and salt to eliminate any viscosity and fishiness.

– Afterward, rinse the fish and drain excess water.

The sour fish soup features different ingredients, creating a visual feast of colors. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

The sour fish soup features different ingredients, creating a feast of colors. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

– Place the fish in a bowl, add a teaspoon of fish sauce, a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper, and a teaspoon of minced garlic.

– Allow the fish to marinate in this flavorful mixture for 10-15 minutes.

– If possible, opt for snakehead fish, known for its firm and white meat.

b. Prepare vegetables and herbs

– Peel the skin off the pineapple and cut it into bite-sized triangles.

– Stem the elephant ear stalks and cut them diagonally.

– Cut the tomatoes into wedges.

– Slice the okra diagonally.

– Wash bean sprouts and allow them to drain.

– Wash and chop the herbs.

– Chop the garlic finely.

– For the sour taste, use tamarind (or kumquat juice).

– In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of water and the tamarind.

– Bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer until the tamarind fully dissolves into the water.

– Once the tamarind is fully dissolved, pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl, then set aside.

2. Cooking process

– Heat cooking oil in a pan over low-medium heat.

– Sauté the chopped garlic until it reaches a slight yellow color. Remove the garlic from the oil and set it aside.

– Fry the marinated fish in the same garlic-infused oil. This step not only imparts a rich flavor to the fish but also helps eliminate any lingering fishy taste, enhances its firmness and transforms its color to a white with golden edges. Once fried, set the fish aside.

Frying the fish not only enhances its firmness but also transforms its color to a white with golden edges. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

Marinated fish is fried in garlic-infused oil. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

– In a separate pot, bring water to a boil.

– Add fish sauce, salt, and sugar to the boiling water, adjusting to your taste preferences.

– Introduce the previously fried fish into the pot, allowing it to cook. While cooking, continuously skim off any foam that may rise to the surface.

– Once the fish is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the broth and set it aside for later use.

– Add pineapple, tomatoes, and the previously filtered tamarind juice to the broth.

– Season the soup for a balanced taste, adjusting sweetness, saltiness, and sourness as needed.

– Introduce elephant ear stalks, okra, and bean sprouts into the pot.

– Return the fried fish to the pot to heat through.

– Sprinkle the soup with the previously sautéed garlic for added flavor.

– Garnish with herbs.

3. Finished product

A bowl of sour fish soup is typically accompanied by a side of fish sauce with chilies. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

A bowl of sour fish soup is typically accompanied by a side of fish sauce with chilies. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

The ideal result is a clear broth, carrying a sour note derived from the combination of pineapple and tamarind, with a subtle hint of spice from chili.

The inclusion of vegetables and herbs enhances the texture of the dish.

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