Sunday, July 25, 2010

Canh Ca Chua

Canh Ca Chua

I was born and mostly raised in New Orleans, so I have a weakness for gumbo and spicy sea food and rice plates. Which is why I love Canh Ca Chua every once in a while, which is a spicy and sour fish soup originating from south Vietnam. It has notes of tamarind, lemongrass and other really yummy spices.

I like to think of this dish as a Vietnamese version of gumbo. It often has okra (mine doesn't, though) and it is spicy and has seafood. Okay, not a perfect comparison but the flavors remind me of it, and I wasn't in the mood to make a gumbo so I opted for this. For one essential reason - I had a lot of leftover broth from Bun Bo Hue. I froze it and saved it for this one.

Yes, yes, more re-working. I love incorporating unused parts of other dishes into new dishes to minimize waste and optimize flavor. The broth from Bun Bo Hue has lots of spice and lemongrass, which are some of the flavors in this dish. Oh, how convenient!

And this also reveals my next secret. I always start the week with a dish that is mild in flavor and can start with a boiled something (so that I can get the broth from it) and then as the week goes on, the dishes get more bold and spicy (I usually end with a really spicy soup or a curry). Then by Sunday, my fridge is empty and I can start all over again.

That's how I manage to make every meal cost about $6 ($2/person in my house) or less.

Back to the dish.

Canh Ca Chua

The most essential thing I use is a hot and sour paste to save lots of time. It's what is often used as the broth for Hot Pot and has all the elements to prepare a flavorful soup in a half hour.

Cat Fish (most fish work, this was on sale)
Canned Pineapple (chunks in heavy syrup)
*You can also use bean sprouts for more veggie goodness, but they are a little expensive at the grocery store near me. The Asian markets have them for really inexpensive, but it's not super close to me unfortunately.

Instant Hot and Sour Paste
Leftover Bun Bo Hue Broth

Sweat diced onion, garlic, celery, 1/3 tomatoes. Add hot and sour paste, fill with broth and bring to boil. Add fish and entire contents of canned pineapple (with all the sour stuff like tomatoes and the paste, you'll need this syrup to balance it). Add remaining diced tomatoes and cook until fish is done.  I added fish sauce because it wasn't seasoned enough, so salt to your taste.

Serve on a bed of rice and enjoy!

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