This unusual tangy soup can be found throughout South East Asia - with the balance of hot, sweet and sour flavors varying from Cambodia to Thailand to Vietnam. Chilies provide the heat, tamarind produces the tartness and, in Vietnam, where it is the second most cultivated fruit (banana being the first), the delicious sweetness comes from ripe pineapple.
Sweet and sour fish soup
Ingredients : Serves 4
- 1: Catfish, sea bass or red snapper, about 1 kg, filleted
- 25 g: Dried squid, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- 15 ml: Vegetable oil
- 2: Spring onions (scallions), sliced
- 2: Shallots, sliced
- 4 cm: Fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 stalks: Lemon grass, cut into strips and crushed
- 30 ml: Tamarind paste
- 2-3: Thai chilies, seeded and sliced
- 15 ml: Sugar
- 30-45 ml: Nuoc Mam
- 225 g: Fresh pineapple, peeled and diced
- 3: Tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
- 50 g: Canned sliced bamboo shoots, drained
- 1 small bunch: Fresh coriander, stalks removed, leaves finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon: Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon: Ground black pepper
- 115 g: Bean sprouts
- 1 bunch: Dill, fronds roughly chopped, for garnishing
- 1: Lime, cut into quarters, to serve
- 30 ml: Nuoc Mam
- 2 cloves: Garlic, finely chopped
- Cut the fish into bite-size pieces. Reserve the head, tail and bones for the stock.
- In a bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients and add the fish pieces. Toss until well coated, cover and set aside. Drain and rinse the soaked dried squid.
- Heat the oil in a deep pan and stir in the spring onions, shallots, ginger, lemon grass and dried squid. Add the reserved fish head, tail and bones, and saute them gently for a minute or two. Pour in 1.2 liters of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Strain the stock into another deep pan and bring the clear broth to the boil. Stir in the tamarind paste, chilies, sugar and nuoc mam and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the pineapple, tomatoes and bamboo shoots and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Finally stir in the fish pieces and the chopped fresh coriander, and cook until the fish turns opaque.
- Season to taste and ladle the soup into hot bowls.
- Garnish with bean sprouts and dill.
- Serve with the lime quarters to squeeze over.
Hot and Sour:
Depending on your mood, or your palate, you can adjust the balance of hot and sour by adding more chili or tamarind to taste. Enjoyed as a meal in itself, the soup is usually served with plain steamed rice but in Saigon it is served with chunks of fresh baguette, which are perfect for soaking up the spicy, fruity, tangy broth.